Frisco helicopter crash responders, other Summit County heroes honored |

Frisco helicopter crash responders, other Summit County heroes honored

Summit Medical Center CT Tech Jimmy Rhodes stood, tears in his eyes, as he accepted the award. He rescued pilot Patrick Mahany from the helicopter wreckage after three attempts, giving Karen Mahany a moment with her husband before he passed. Rhodes had known Mahany for nearly two years working at the hospital.
Elise Reuter / |

When Jimmy Rhodes and Jordan Dobrin witnessed the helicopter’s uneasy descent, they sprung immediately into action. Despite the rising flames, the two moved in to help rescue pilot Patrick Mahany and flight nurse Dave Repsher from the wreckage. Flight nurse Matt Bowe also managed to escape with his life, and was present and smiling at Friday’s awards ceremony, honoring Summit County heroes for their lifesaving efforts.

“Your unselfish actions speak to us all,” Summit County Sheriff John Minor said on Friday, as he and Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue chief Jeff Berino presented the two with citizen heroism awards. “You gave a wife an opportunity to say goodbye, and you gave another man an opportunity at life.”

Dobrin, a local mortgage broker, was riding on his bike when he witnessed the helicopter drop.

“I saw it in the air and I saw it spinning. I was thinking, ‘why was it doing that?’”

After the crash, a piece of debris knocked Dobrin off of his bike.

“Then I saw Dave. I knew I had to do something,” he said.

Dobrin rushed to the scene, and helped extinguish the fire around Repsher sparked by the helicopter’s ruptured fuel tank. Repsher remains in critical condition at University Hospital in Denver, recovering from severe burns after the crash.

While Dobrin and Rhodes had never met, they shook hands and smiled at Friday’s ceremony. Rhodes, a CT Tech at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, rushed out to the scene as soon as he heard about the downed helicopter.

“I was taking a patient back, and when one of the nurses said the helicopter went down, I just started running,” Rhodes said. “By the time I got there, the heat was so intense… it was an inferno.”

As he approached, he decided his goal was to pull Mahany out of the helicopter. Rhodes had known Mahany for nearly two years while working at the hospital. After three tries, he managed to free him from the wreckage, suffering some minor burns.

“You never leave a man down regardless of the situation,” Rhodes said. “We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

Karen Mahany, Patrick’s wife, and Crystal Mahany, his daughter-in-law, thanked the two men for their efforts.

“When he pulled Patrick out, Patrick was alive, Patrick was talking, and they were able to get him to the emergency department which allowed me to come from Dillon to get to Patrick’s bedside,” Karen Mahany, Patrick’s wife, said. “I was able to talk to him and tell him all of the things I wanted to say before he passed away. And I got to be there when the love of my life walked into heaven. For that, I am eternally grateful.”


A Colorado family was presented the lifesaving award, after saving a man’s life after he dove into Green Mountain Reservoir, finding himself paralyzed in the water. Olivia, Kaden, Craig and Susie Ellis were picnicking at the reservoir when Ryan Whitten and his friends arrived on their way to Kremmling. Taking the opportunity to cliff dive, Whitten decided to jump off the tallest outcropping, that he estimated was 70-feet tall.

“I got to the top cliff and I jumped off feet first,” Whitten said. “…I landed on my back. Right when I hit the water I broke my back. Everything became useless.

Unable to move his arms or feet, Whitten bobbed up and down in the water, gasping for air. Olivia Ellis, a competitive swimmer in high school, knew something was wrong when she heard him smack the water. When she saw him struggling to stay above the surface, she and her brother acted quickly.

“With every breath I took, his bobs were longer and longer,” Olivia Ellis said.

“I took two breaths and all I got was water,” Whitten added. “I took another two breaths and yelled for help.”

He went underwater again, peering down into the darkness, when Kaden Ellis hit him “like a football player.”

“I had given up and that’s when he hit me,” Whitten said. “Then he reached out, grabbed me and brought me back to the surface.”

Olivia Ellis remembered Whitten told them he was paralyzed, so they kept his head and neck steady while carrying him toward the shore.

“It felt like a long time,” she noted.

Whitten estimated that they were in the freezing water for nearly 45 minutes when paramedics hoisted him out of the water and gave him medical attention. He said they told him he had two seizures throughout the entire event; he was transported to the hospital and airlifted to Denver.

Olivia Ellis said she and her family visited Whitten in the hospital a few days after the incident.

“It was really helpful just for us to get closure and know that he was ok,” Olivia Ellis added.

A citizenship award was presented to another group closely familiar with the water. Chris Campton and KODI Rafting Crews were honored for aiding local first responders with several swift-water rescues in the Lower Blue River throughout the summer.

Lake Dillon Fire battalion chief Kelly Wagner, who nominated the group, noted “they have been a valuable resource in the last two river calls.”

“It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as some folks who are here today,” Campton responded. He echoed a common theme throughout the awards ceremony — “We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

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