Kremmling man presented lifesaving award for rescue of drowning man
Colorado Red Cross executive director Eric Myers handed Todd Nelson a large plaque, giving him a firm handshake and a note of thanks for his life-saving efforts. Nelson was presented with their Lifesaver Award on Friday, in recognition of his efforts in saving a drowning man from Green Mountain Reservoir in June.
That day, Nelson was driving home to Kremmling after a day of work in Summit when he noticed a thick cloud of dust hanging over Highway 9 — and a car below, half-submerged in the reservoir.
“It was just the right time, right place, right person. It was just sheer luck,” Nelson said. “Two minutes either way, it would have been too late or he wouldn’t have been there.”
Acting quickly, Nelson asked another bystander to call 911 while he swam toward the unconscious man who was thrown from his car into the water. Carrying him back to shore, Nelson was able to resuscitate the 48-year-old man while he waited for ambulances to arrive.
Nelson said that he had received the CPR training working as a lifeguard as a teenager. But he had never needed to use it before.
“This was the first actual time in real life,” Nelson said. “There’s a first time for everything I should say.”
Regional communications director Patricia Billinger said the Lifesaver Award is presented to individuals who have used their Red Cross training to save a life. She noted that Nelson took all of the right steps in responding to the situation, from the beginning when he pulled over his car instead of driving on past.
“He focused on performing the rescue in a safe manner, and performing CPR on the man, with a wonderful outcome,” Billinger said. “It really demonstrates how important it is for everyday people to know CPR.”
She added that while many people take lifeguard training, they don’t always expect to use it. But in emergency situations, instead of panic, “the training kicks in, calm takes over and they do what they need to do to save a life.”
Billinger said that with Green Mountain Reservoir’s relatively remote location, the time spent waiting for emergency responders could have been the difference between life and death.
Nelson’s award is just one of a few that the Red Cross hands out every year. Billinger estimated that between the states of Colorado and Wyoming, officials present five to eight awards annually.
“There are many more cases, but often they don’t tell us,” Billinger said. “When emergency responders arrive, they leave, and don’t want any recognition.”
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