BAILEY, Colo. – Recovery crews have suspended their search for one of two people tossed into the choppy waters of Lake Wellington Wednesday morning.
The couple, believed to be from Bailey, was canoeing on the lake when the wind kicked up.
“I’m guessing there were 40 to 50 mile an hour gusts that we were having here,” said Lake Manager Jeanne Sander. “There were whitecaps on the water.”
It’s not known if wind caused the canoe to capsize.
Sander said a propane truck driver saw the canoe and a woman in the water, and got in touch with Lake Wellington staff.
“We went into action,” she said. “The operations manager, a laborer and head ranger got a vessel and some jackets and then got into the water and got out to the woman,” who was making her way to shore.
At first, rescuers thought there was just one person in the water.
“I only saw the woman in the water,” said Head Ranger Randi Clark. “I had no idea there was a second victim until we got the woman out.”
The woman told rescuers that her husband was still in the lake. He had apparently slipped under water.
North Fork Fire Rescue and the West Metro Dive team spent much of the day searching for the victim with sonar. Sander said the water is so cold, rescue crews can’t spend much time in the water.
“The ice just came off the lake two weeks ago,” Clark said. “It’s still cold. And at night, it still gets very cold.”
Clark said the most difficult part of the search is knowing that there were life jackets in the canoe, but they weren’t being used.
“People overlook them and think they don’t need to put them on,” Sander said, “but you do. It can save your life.”
Sander said anyone entering the privately-owned lake is required to use life vests. “You never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “You can go out there one minute and the water might be calm. A few minutes later the winds can kick up.”
Sander said she is in shock and is hurting for the victim’s family.
“She’s down in the hospital probably wondering what’s going on with her husband. I hurt for people like that.”
Recovery crews plan to search the lake again tomorrow.