An Arizona man in his early 20s was rescued Tuesday morning from Vallecito Reservoir after spending the night clinging to a life vest.
Roy Vreeland, deputy chief with the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District, said a bystander walking his dog around 6 a.m. Tuesday on the northeast side of the reservoir heard someone in the water yelling for help and called 911.
Vreeland said when emergency workers arrived, they spotted a man about 200 yards out on the lake, holding onto a life jacket. A boat from the Vallecito Marina retrieved the man and brought him to a medical unit on the lake’s north end.
“He was in very bad shape,” Vreeland said.
La Plata County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dan Bender identified the man as Morgan Holliday, who apparently was vacationing at Vallecito.
Bender and Vreeland said accounts of how Holliday ended up spending the night in the middle of the lake are a bit unclear, but alcohol played a role.
“You’re not getting real accurate information in a situation like that,” Bender said.
Holliday was severely hypothermic after being pulled from the reservoir.
Bender said it appears Holliday and a friend went onto Vallecito Reservoir around dusk on Monday, each with separate canoes “possibly borrowed with or without permission.”
Both had personal floatation devices (life jackets) but were not wearing them, Vreeland said. Neither Holliday nor his friend was swimmers, Bender added.
At some point, Holliday fell out of his canoe and capsized. Holliday then tried to get aboard his friend’s canoe, which also capsized during the attempt.
Vreeland said Holliday’s friend was able to swim ashore, but he did not call 911. He was unsure why the friend did not alert authorities.
Holliday was able to retrieve and hold onto his life jacket.
In all, it’s likely he spent about nine hours in the water, which had a recorded temperature of 71 degrees.
“He’s lucky to be alive,” Vreeland said.
Holliday was taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center, where he was listed in fair condition as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, a Mercy spokesman said.
Bender said only one unattended canoe was recovered from the lake Tuesday.
email@example.comThis story has been updated to correct the first name of Upper Pine River Protection District Deputy Chief Roy Vreeland.