It’s been a crazy summer. This is the story of one of the most intense situations I’ve ever been in that happened about a month ago:
“Goody’s pinned!” Ethan said to me in a rushed voice as he jumped out of his boat, grabbed his throw bag, and began running through the woods upstream. It was hard to imagine that two hours earlier we were chilling at the Smokehouse restaurant enjoying a beer together after work. Ethan received a text from Goody saying “Obj @ 5:45?” Ethan glanced at me and said “Wanna go boat?” “Yeah, let’s do it.” We had met up with one of our fellow raft guides, Adam, in Crested Butte who said he would come and take some pictures. After driving out into the beautiful valley, we met up with Chris and Goody at the Oh-be-joyful campground and prepared to run the 1 mile long, Class V creek. We had all run this creek multiple times before and were pretty comfortable on it. As we hiked up to the put-in, we talked about random stuff, about Ethan about to become a dad, and Goody spoke about his wife and one year old son. We put on and ran the first several drops fine. I happened to be in the back of the pack. Things got interesting as we approached Triple Drop, three fairly consecutive 5-6ft drops, before the Big Drop, a 25ft waterfall. I lined up for the first of the Triple Drops. When I went over it, I noticed a blue boat (goody’s) which was pinned underwater in the drop. Immediately I looked for Goody swimming downstream….but didn’t see him. Instead I saw Chris and Ethan eddying out and I knew Goody was still pinned in his boat.
I jumped out of my boat and grabbed my throwbag, I set up just a little upstream while Ethan and Chris went up to where Goody was. I knew that I would be the last safety bag for Goody if he popped out and the other two couldn’t get him before he would be going through the other two drops and possibly the big one. After a short time, though, I heard Ethan yell, “Paul, we need you up here!” I ran up the bank over to where they were. We tossed throwbags into the spot where we knew Goody was..although we couldn’t see him because of all the water pouring over his body. At one point, we could tell Goody had grabbed onto the bag, but as we slowly pulled, it popped out, and Goody was still stuck. Things started looking really grim for the next few minutes. We tried several other quick methods with no avail, not knowing if Goody could breath or not. The situation intensified as the minutes slowly ticked on and Goody remained stuck under the falls. We knew that, if he couldn’t breath, we had maybe a minute and a half, or two max before we would just be pulling out a body. As our efforts were continually ineffective, we thought we were watching our friend drown. However, we were given a little hope after several minutes when Goody’s arm reached up to grab a paddle that we were reaching in with. We kept pressing hard, knowing that he was still alive, but still not knowing how long he had to live while trapped there. We took some time to set up a more complicated ropes system. After trying several methods that didn’t work, we tried one that seemed like our best option. By this time Adam had come up and become a part of our rescue. We hooked up one guy in the river (it was fairly shallow in some spots, but still swift) to two ropes, one on each side. He was also roped on the back by another guy in the river behind him. I manned the rope on the far side, while Ethan and Chris switched off in the middle with Adam manning the rope on the far side. At one point, we needed an extra rope which was in Ethan’s kayak. I tied off my end and began going for it when they called me off. I didn’t know why, but somehow the system was set up. The guy on the ropes would walk out as close as he could get to Goody and then leap into the water where we knew he was pinned, trying to grab him and pull him out. After several failed attempts, moral began to decline again, but the work continued. I began praying, “Lord, you know what we’re doing and it’s not working. Lord, you need to pop him out. Please pop him out, Jesus.” A couple more leaps failed and then Chris went in again. As he disappeared into the falls, we could tell he had grabbed Goody, because he didn’t flush out like before. No sooner had we said, “He’s got him!” when Chris flushed out… without Goody. As Ethan and Chris began to brainstorm again and recoup for another leap, all of a sudden Goody and his kayak had popped out and was floating downstream. Chris was immediately grabbing Goody with both hands, as we held Chris with the ropes. Goody’s boat however was filling up with water and pulling everyone harder downstream. We were able to get the boat pinned on the rock and Ethan began trying to pull Goody’s leg out of his boat, which took longer than it should. Another guy, Nick, a kayaker who showed up just to watch had also been around for most of the rescue. He had helped Adam with the rope and now helped Ethan and Chris pull Goody out of the water on that side. We had just gotten Goody out when another kayaker showed up who had received the emergency call that Adam had phoned in earlier in the rescue. Just behind him was the Crested Butte Search and Rescue Team. I saw Goody move his head as they pulled him out and was relieved that he was alive. Search and Rescue took over and transported him to the hospital. Later, we were able to calculate that Goody was pinned under the water for thirty-three minutes total.
Eventually, everyone left and Ethan and I just sat on the back of his truck at the campground for a while. It was the toughest situation either of us had ever been in on the river, and truly a miracle that Goody came out alive. The “circumstances” that came together were to great to deny the hand of God in it. We got many of these details later. For one, we wondered where the extra rope had come from that we needed. Turns out, several weeks earlier, Goody had used that bag to tie a log off on shore and just left his bag there. It just “happened” to be right in that exact spot on the creek. Then, there’s the manpower. Chris and Goody were just planning on running it by themselves, but Goody decided to text Ethan and we decided to go. Also, that Adam wasn’t planning on coming, but then decided last minute to join us. If we had had any less people, the last system we had set up wouldn’t have worked, we needed every hand. Lastly, Adam had planned on just bringing his camera, but his battery was dead, so he decided to bring his cell phone to take pictures with. This is what he used to place the emergency call early on which helped SAR get there as quickly as they did. All these circumstances just “happened” to come together. No, God was definitely taking care of us.
On the drive back, Ethan looked at me and said, “I just can’t help thinking, ‘What if that had been one of us in there.’” “Well,” I replied, “that’s really where the rubber meets the road for me. There’s lots of religion out there that’s okay for a hobby or decent principles to live by, but with Jesus, I know that if that was me, and I didn’t have an air pocket, I know where I’m going.” “yeah, I guess it would be nice to think there’s something more, but I think I just believe that we just sort of blot out, or just stop existing…that’s kinda bleak I guess,” Ethan responded. “yeah, it makes sense there’s a God though, and I think one of the greatest evidences for it is where we are. When I see a painting I know there’s a painter, when I see a building I know there’s a builder, and when I see Creation, I know there’s a Creator.” “That’s a good point.” That was pretty much our conversation. There was the thought of, “Is now the right time to talk about this?” Then I thought, “There’s no better time. We have just seen two great things. 1. Man’s mortality. We came face to face with the fact that death can happen any time and very quicky. 2. God’s love. We just got to witness, first hand, God arranging things according to His plan in order to save Goody. While many of the guys could only direct their praise to “Luck” I know that Goody was not lucky, it was that God had His mighty hand in that rescue and it is to Him that I give all the praise and the glory. I couldn’t help but saying, “Praise God!” Praise God for His awesome protection and for the opportunities He give to us to share His good news with those who don’t know.
As I think about it, there are many parallels to Goody’s situation and ours as mankind. We are pinned under our sin and are helpless to free ourselves. Although we may live on this earth for a little while, if something doesn’t change, we are destined for death. There is no hope for us if we stay the same. We need an outside force to do something for us, or else we will perish for all eternity…and that’s exactly what God did. He sent us a glorious Savior. He sent Jesus to save us. Now, not through our being “good enough”, but only through faith in Jesus, we can be saved. Praise God that He saves sinners!
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
P.S. Sorry for the typo’s. Posted with basically zero proofing.