Kremmling hero rescues man who crashed into Green Mountain Reservoir | SummitDaily.com

Kremmling hero rescues man who crashed into Green Mountain Reservoir

Elise Reuter
ereuter@summitdaily.com

When Todd Nelson pulled up to the bank of Green Mountain Reservoir, he had no idea what to expect. Working for Lawson Products in Summit, Nelson was driving back home to Kremmling on Highway 9 when he saw a large cloud of dust hanging near the side of the road. Pulling over his car, he saw a set of tire tracks going off the embankment, and an object in the water below.

"I look up and I see this incredible cloud of dust. It was so intense and so long in the air, it just seemed odd," Nelson said. "I looked down, and saw a car half submerged in the lake, with lots of debris floating down the river."

A report by the Colorado State Patrol, which responded to the incident around 5:30 p.m. on Monday, said an Isuzu Rodeo occupied by a 48-year-old man from Phoenix, Arizona, rolled off the roadway. The driver, the sole occupant of the vehicle, was ejected into the water.

Looking closer, Nelson noticed the man floating face down in the water. Realizing he needed to act quickly, he flagged down a woman who was driving around the reservoir, and told her to call 911 before dashing down the steep embankment.

"At that point I took everything out of my pockets because I knew where I was going," Nelson said.

He waded into the waist-deep water before he was faced with another choice: checking the car for another victim or rescuing the man in the reservoir.

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Nelson swam up behind the man, grabbing the back of his shirt to pull him in toward shore from the chilled water.

"I said, this isn't really any fun doing this, but I'm here, so I've got to do it," Nelson said. "I remembered back when I was 14 years old, with the Red Cross when I was training to be a lifeguard."

Bringing him in to the riverbank, Nelson was not able to elicit a response.

"There was no life in his eyes," Nelson said. "He was not breathing."

Looking down the river, he noticed two kayakers and two boaters approaching. Nelson laid the man down on the riverbank, starting chest compressions in an attempt to extract the water.

"I was thinking, at that point, that this was not gonna be easy," Nelson said.

With a gasp of air, the man began breathing lightly. Clearly concussed, the man barely noticed Nelson was there.

"He started to fall back in the river," Nelson said. "The guy and gal caught him and brought him back into the bank."

They waited by the bank for 20 minutes before the first responders arrived. State Patrol began assessing the situation while firefighters and ambulances came to the scene.

Sergeant Rob Madden with the Colorado State Patrol said the man, who was in critical condition, was transported to St. Anthony's Hospital in Lakewood via Flight for Life. A note from Monday night showed the man was not doing well, but was alive.

With soaked boots, pants and a blood-stained shirt, Nelson continued his drive home after the five bystanders left the scene.

"I had done everything I could do," Nelson said.

The Colorado State Patrol is currently investigating whether possible alcohol or drugs were a contributing factor to the accident.