Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Heroics by Lake Pueblo Rangers kept tragic week on waters from being far worse
PUEBLO, Colo. – Recent headlines reported two dead in a Memorial Day boat accident at Lake Pueblo State Park, but there was far more to this tragic story.
Without the heroics of Colorado Parks and Wildlife Ranger Joe Portteus and Seasonal Ranger Seth Herndon, the tragedy could have been far worse.
Portteus and Herndon were on duty that Sunday night when the call for help came in: A boat loaded with 13 people – 8 children and 5 adults – had capsized out on the 4,500-acre lake amid howling winds producing dangerous white caps.
Darkness was falling as Portteus and Herndon pointed their CPW patrol boat north and raced across the choppy waters of CPW’s busiest lake. They were met by a chaotic scene as they arrived off the North Shore.
Only the nose of the boat, built to carry a half dozen people, was still visible in the 60-degree water.
Bobbing and flailing before them were 11 victims trying to stay afloat. Children were crying for help as the winds pushed them away from the sinking boat and each other. Some were face-down in the water.
The two rangers attempted to reach Senior Ranger Daryl Seder at the command post on shore but the winds were blowing so hard they couldn’t be heard. Nor could they make out any replies from CPW staff on shore.
So the pair started pulling victims from the water into their wildly rocking patrol boat.
They saved 11 lives that night. Sadly, a husband and wife drowned in the incident.
“I’m convinced the death toll would have been far higher without the courageous response of Rangers Portteus and Herndon,” said Joe Stadterman, Lake Pueblo Park Manager. “They ignored the danger to themselves posed by the extreme weather and didn’t quit until they had every living soul safely aboard. Then they delivered them to emergency personnel waiting on shore. They are true heroes.”
Stadterman said Portteus and Herndon are being nominated for CPW live-saving awards while Seder is being nominated for an exceptional service award for managing the incident at the scene.
Ranger Joe Portteus is shown in front of two flags.
Seasonal Ranger Seth Herndon is show outdoors at Lake Pueblo.
Photos are courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.