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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


Archived comments

The water is cold- you lose your energy extremely quickly, no matter how strong you think you are.  RIP to the kid, sad way to go.


7/2/2009 1:44:02 PM

Hey fade: He's not dead yet. The cold water may have saved him. We'll see what happens after they warm the poor man up.


7/2/2009 2:15:46 PM

Is any fishing tackle worth a life? ... almost two lives?


7/2/2009 2:19:52 PM

Woah! Yea I commented before that update occurred...I hope he makes it, thank god for the quick action, and as a fisherman I know that situation of salvaging after your favorite rod- when I originally posted the DC reported he was out swimming.


7/2/2009 2:20:13 PM

Vanessa Miller has a history of getting stories wrong.

When the Camera makes updates that are large changes of facts, perhaps it would be wise for them to admit and acknowledge what the original report was in italics, like other professional journalists do.


7/2/2009 2:24:26 PM

The man was not airlifted to the hospital. He was pronounced dead in the back of the ambulance


7/2/2009 3:06:43 PM

Can someone explain this to me: 'rescuers initially treated the victim as potentially "savable" because he was found deep in the 55-degree water'

I dont understand why he'd be potentially savable because:

1. Deep water

2. 55 degrees is cold (when compared to avg 98.6 degree body temp)


7/2/2009 4:05:39 PM

indiePolitico... because at that temperature, most bodily functions slow way down and brain death does not occur as quickly, as the body is cooled down. People who have been under cold water for more than a few minutes have successfully been revived.


7/2/2009 4:09:05 PM

Danimal - not after an hour of being underwater.


7/2/2009 4:12:41 PM

Politico, the cold temperate slows the metabolism, and helps to stave off the effect of oxygen deprivation. so when the bodies temperature droops that quickly brain damage, or brain death may be forestalled. some children have recovered with little or no ill effects after being under freezing water for as long as an hour. So their is a bit more hope for the victim to be revived if the bodies temperate is drastically reduced.


7/2/2009 4:14:59 PM

Daily Camera: "Home â º Boulder County Gold â º 2007 BOCO Gold : Eats"

Why is the article posted in this section?

DC, please fix...


7/2/2009 4:02:26 PM

You have a 50-percent survival rate if you are in 50 degree F water for 50 minutes. That is if you happen to find yourself at sea overboard, your head above water, you can still breathe. Your chances of surviving are improved if you do not panic. Being underwater for over an hour is a death sentence, no matter how cold the temp is.


7/2/2009 4:31:15 PM

"Being underwater for over an hour is a death sentence, no matter how cold the temp is."

That is probably true, but they do not pronounce someone dead until they are "warm & dead"


7/2/2009 5:00:20 PM

The correct name is Barker Meadow Reservoir.

/RIP fisher guy.


7/2/2009 5:47:27 PM

biker_joe has it correct. It's called the mammalian dive reflex:


7/2/2009 6:07:08 PM

I would think having better cell phone coverage up there could have decreased the response time and possibly altered the outcome. If the joggers were carrying phones they wouldnt have had to run back into town.

7/2/2009 6:10:00 PM

Cold water near-drowning victims have been revived after as long as one hour under water. Professional medical care is needed to resuscitate these victims, but rescuers should not give up on victims of extended cold water submersion.


7/2/2009 6:24:23 PM

Very sad. Kudos to the friend for trying. I heard that if a drowning person is pulling you under, you're supposed to grab them by the shoulders and knee them hard between the legs. That way, they are temporarily incapacitated, giving you a chance to turn them face up and swim with them. By the time they recover, they can already breathe and will stop struggling. Never tried it myself. Anyone?


7/3/2009 6:06:14 AM

Very sad.

7/3/2009 9:57:25 AM

"I heard that if ..."

Complete BS.


7/3/2009 1:14:29 PM

Cold water is dangerous. I tried the polar bear jump a few years ago, and could barely walk out of the water. He probably never had that experience and wasn't aware.


7/4/2009 2:20:18 AM

How many jggers carry cell phones? By the time the friend reached the shore, the victim had dissappeared. When you number is called, it is called.


7/5/2009 9:51:55 AM