COCHITI LAKE, N.M. – As a severe thunderstorm with strong wind and hail rolled through the area, two rescues on the lake engaged all the District staff here, including the park rangers and maintenance staff, July 29, 2016.
The report came in to park ranger Roberta Chavez that a family of five that had been paddle boarding was having trouble in the lake near the control tower and rip-rap – the layer of large rocks along the dam’s slope that helps prevent erosion. Michael Vollmer (head Ranger) and ranger Trevor Wallin launched the patrol boat to assist the paddle boarders. Visibility was reduced drastically because of the storm.
Shortly after this, at around 2:15 pm, another call came in reporting “a sinking boat.” The storm was so heavy that initially the rangers could not see the disabled boat. They were finally able to identify it. All six individuals on board were wearing life jackets.
Vollmer and Wallin decided that the priority was the paddle boarders. They identified one paddle boarder who was not in danger and was able to make it to the swim beach under his own power.
They proceeded to the next paddle boarders, two females in the water (wearing lifejackets). The rangers got them in the boat and then assisted the next paddle boarder who was in danger of being pushed into the rip-rap along the dam. They were able to get him and his paddleboard into the patrol boat along with the last paddle boarder.
While the rangers were rescuing the last paddle boarder, one of the females became unconscious and EMS was called. The rangers took the paddle boarders to the dock where rangers Bob Garcia, Richard Gutierrez and Chris Dohmen met the patrol boat. Garcia, Gutierrez and Dohmen administered first aid to the unconscious paddle boarder until EMS arrived.
Meanwhile maintenance worker Myron Suina was at the swim beach to support the rescue efforts. There, Suina found the paddle boarder who had made it to the swim beach on his own. In the midst of the rescue, the father and mother, who were on the patrol boat with hypothermia and shock, lost track of their son’s location and feared he had drowned.
The unconscious female was transported to Santa Fe for further medical treatment.
Rangers Vollmer and Wallin then proceeded to conduct tow operations for the disabled boat. Rescue operations concluded around 2:45 pm, with everyone safe and no loss of life.
On Aug. 19, 2016, District Commander Lt. Col. James Booth recognized the entire staff at Cochiti Lake who were involved in the rescues, presenting them with commander’s coins. Those recognized were rangers Michael Vollmer, Trevor Wallin, Richard Gutierrez and Roberta Chavez and Chris Dohmen; field office assistant Mark Baker; rangers Robert Garcia and Nick Parks; maintenance workers Myron Suina, Charles Naranjo, Wayne Arquero and Dru Ashona.
"The Cochiti staff do a tremendous job keeping visitors safe and have no idea how many lives are saved on a daily basis due to the vigilance of the staff and willingness to engage with the public in water safety education," said Vollmer.