Tuesday Aug 31 2010
CHP, Cal Fire team up to rescue woman on Bear River near Colfax
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Cal Fire firefighters and a California Highway Patrol helicopter crew are being credited with rescuing a woman who had become lost in the darkness along an isolated stretch of the Bear River near Colfax. While rescue personnel searched on both sides of the shoreline on the river about 1¼ miles downstream from the Highway 174 bridge, the Auburn-based chopper hovered about 100 feet above. Suffering from hypothermia, the woman was eventually found after calling out in the darkness and Colfax-based Cal Fire searchers were able to locate her. She was taken across a shallow stretch of rapids to the north bank and walked out to a waiting ambulance, a highway patrol spokesman said today. The incident occurred in the waning hours of Friday night and the rescue took place in the darkness early the next day. David Vilas, who lives on acreage fronting the river, said he was alerted to the emergency when a young man started yelling for help. The man was on the other side of the river and made his way to a home there, where its occupants alerted Cal Fire, he said. “The young woman may have died – if not for that CHP helicopter,” Vilas said. The chopper hovered with a bright light shining down on the river for more than an hour as searchers combed the shoreline below, he said. Pilot Steve Ward said he and Flight Officer Kevin Neyley used night-vision goggles and a 30-million-candlepower spotlight to help look for the girl. Indications are the girl had been separated from her male companion after they had gotten lost while hiking, he said. The identities of the woman and the man were unavailable. Firefighters located the woman on a rock, Ward said. When hoisting her into the helicopter proved to be too risky, rescuers crossed the river to bring her back, he said. Ward said it was a busy day for the highway patrol chopper, with a rescue earlier of a boy with a broken ankle on the Rubicon River.