A man tubing down the Animas River Whitewater Park without a life jacket or helmet required rescue Sunday and was transported to Mercy Regional Medical Center showing signs of life.
According to Durango Fire Protection District EMS Cpt. Dave Fiddler, a man in his mid-30s fell out of his tube in the Whitewater Park, and was found floating face down in the river near the Santa Rita Park playground.
Fiddler said people on scene did “everything right” by getting the man out of the water, calling 911 and starting CPR.
When DFPD arrived on scene, they “weren’t terribly optimistic for the most part,” Fiddler said. However, because CPR had been initiated early on, after about 10 minutes of DFPD performing cardiac arrest management, the man started exhibiting signs of life.
Fiddler said DFPD transported the man to Mercy, and by the time crews left the emergency room, the man had a pulse and blood pressure.
“Though that doesn’t really speak to what he’s going to do,” said Fiddler.
Fiddler did not identify the man, citing HIPAA legislation, which prevents any personal information being released about the man. It is not possible to check on the condition of a patient at Mercy without identification.
Fiddler did confirm the man was not wearing a personal floatation device (life jacket) or helmet.
“He was just your typical summer tuber,” Fiddler said. “T-shirt, pair of shorts, sandals.”
M’Lis Scott, a kayaker visiting for the day from Albuquerque, said she was scouting the river when she saw the man enter the Whitewater Park, and fall out of his tube at Smelter Rapid.
Scott said the man was stuck in the hole at Smelter Rapid briefly, before being pulled downriver. She believed the man may have hit his head on a rock at the other rapids below, which would explain why he was face down near the playground where Whitewater Park ends.
“He was going fast,” Scott said. “And the next thing I hear is sirens.”
Several other witnesses at the Whitewater Park on Sunday provided similar accounts that the man was knocked out of his tube at Smelter Rapid, but Fiddler said DFPD could not confirm as the district was not yet on scene.
Fiddler said the man was with a group of about five or six friends and family members. He said another young woman in the group also went down the Whitewater Park, but did not sustain injuries.