GOLDEN, Colo. – Five MillerCoors employees at the Golden brewery are being hailed as heroes after jumping in Clear Creek to save a tuber swept up in the current.
“It happened right at shift change, right around 2 o’clock, so Travis [Cordova] is coming in and we’re going home,” senior specialist for finishing Louis Gomez told FOX31.
Cordova says as he was pulling into the employee lot, he noticed a group of people on a bridge over Clear Creek frantically watching the water below.
“They were on the phone and pointing and I had just caught the tail end of this girl in a tube,” Cordova said.
He says he jumped back in his vehicle and drove downstream to try to get ahead of her. According to Cordova, he missed her on his first attempt. That’s when he enlisted the help of the four other employees who were leaving.
“I had no choice but to jump in the river and grab her because she was too far out,” Cordova said. “We both fought the current together and we managed to land her onto shore.”
Cordova described the water as “freezing cold” and the rescue as “brutal.”
“She was very, very thankful. She was very emotional. She was crying. She was in a lot of pain and obviously she was in shock,” Gomez said of the tuber.
The employees described her tube as a “pool toy” and said she was not wearing a life jacket. They put her in coveralls to keep her warm until first responders arrived.
“She was this close to dying. Literally dying,” Gomez said. “I have been [at Coors] 29 years… No one has ever made it this far down and lived. It just doesn’t happen.”
Right near the Coors brewery property line there is a dam with an 8-foot drop. There are also other hazards in the water like smaller drops and a metal gate to help divert the water. It all leads to a water treatment facility on the brewery’s property.
“Fortunately, [she] made it over the dam and didn’t drown in the dam,” Golden Fire Deputy Fire Marshall Jerry Stricker told FOX31.
According to Stricker, the tuber likely tried to disembark in one of the parks upstream but was unable to get to shore due to the strong current.
“The river is powerful and it’s relentless,” he said.
Monday morning, Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader and Golden Police Chief Bill Kilpatrick imposed temporary restrictions on recreation in Clear Creek. The ban affects the waterway in unincorporated Jefferson County and Golden city limits.
The restriction bars tubers, swimmers and others wishing to use a single-chambered inflatable device, such as belly boats, inner tubes and rafts with only one compartment that inflates.
Kayaks and whitewater canoes are exempt from the restrictions. Professionally guided rafts, river boards and stand-up paddle boards are also allowed to operate in Clear Creek during this period. However, anyone entering the water must be wearing a PFD (personal flotation device) and helmet.
Anyone caught in the restricted areas of Clear Creek without proper gear will face a $100 fine.
According to Golden Fire, when Clear Creek runs above 800 cubic feet per second (CFS), conditions are considered too dangerous for most inexperienced swimmers. Right now, the waterway is consistently flowing above 1200 CFS and is expected to rise as more snowpack melts.
“I believe since Thursday we’ve had five times we’ve been out to a rescue call,” Stricker said. “We’re fortunate so far that these have been rescues and not recoveries.”