NEDERLAND, Colo. -
A 20-year-old Aurora man who was fishing at Barker Reservoir drowned Thursday after jumping into the frigid mountain water to retrieve his pole.
It was the third time in 17 years a person has drowned near the same rock outcropping on the north side of the reservoir near Nederland. Rescuers say Barker's waters are treacherous because the temperatures can incapacitate muscles within 30 seconds, and hypothermia can set in quickly.
The Aurora man was fishing with friends about noon when his pole snapped, said Dave Booton, emergency services supervisor for the Boulder County Sheriff's Office. The fisherman - whose name has not been released - jumped into the water to retrieve his pole and almost immediately called back to a friend, "I need help,â according to Booton.
The friend jumped in and grabbed the drowning man, Booton said. But in efforts to save himself, the first man started to pull his friend under, prompting the friend to let go and swim to shore, Booton said. When the friend turned around and saw the first man was gone, he yelled for help.
Two joggers got help, and emergency workers were on the scene within minutes. Nederland rescuers did an initial sweep of the area using surface-water divers and weighted nets. Deep-water divers continued the search when they arrived about an hour after the man disappeared under water.
The divers resurfaced carrying the man, whom they found 33 feet under in 51-degree "blackâ waters. Emergency crews immediately began efforts to resuscitate him.
"Cold-water drownings have huge success and survival rates,â Booton said. "So we always work on the premise that everyone is saveable.â
Paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene. An autopsy is planned Friday, but the Coroner's Office said Thursday that no foul play is suspected.
Booton said he and his colleagues were hopeful that the man would survive because a body's natural reaction in very cold water makes it possible for a person to be resuscitated up to 90 minutes after going under. Cold water can slow a person's heartbeat and redirect blood from extremities to vital organs.
Dan Goldan, dive trainer for the Boulder Emergency Squad, said the man was under water for about 75 minutes, from noon to about 1:15 p.m.
Rescuers responded to similar drownings in the same spot in 1992 and 2003. The first involved a man who went into the water with some friends and never came up. The second involved a grandfather who drowned after jumping into the reservoir to rescue his 6-year-old grandson, who fell in while fishing.
Robbie Mitchell, 28, and Bryan Adams, 26, both of Nederland, said they could tell the water was cold when they first spotted the victim's friend shivering by the banks Thursday. Mitchell and Adams said they could hardly hear the man's cries for help.
"I could barely understand him,â Mitchell said. "I said, 'Are you saying help?'â
The man repeated, "my friend, my friend,â and Mitchell said he asked, "Are you saying, 'My friend is under water?'â
When it was clear he was, Mitchell and Adams alerted authorities, then ran back to help by the water. They both jumped in to feel around for man but found nothing.
About a quarter-mile before Mitchell and Adams arrived at the scene, Adams said, they saw someone splashing and assumed he was swimming - even though swimming is banned in Barker Reservoir. Adams said he's amazed the victim's friend lived because he was so cold that he was obviously disoriented.
"I'm surprised the other guy came out,â Adams said. "He didn't even remember sitting on the shore.â