A rushing, frigid creek, sheer cliffs, a stranded dog and a near-hypothermic man all added up to one challenging rescue for the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue squad.
On Wednesday, TRSAR had its hands full with its first mission of the new year.
A Rim Country man in his 50s to 60s was swept down Tonto Creek near the R-Bar-C Boy Scout Ranch after attempting to rescue his dog, which had been tossed down stream by the rushing creek.
TRSAR Commander Bill Pitterle said around 2:30 p.m. he got a call that the man was hanging precariously on a boulder in the middle of the creek waiting for rescue.
Reportedly, the man and a woman companion were walking two dogs near the creek when one dog got into the creek and was quickly swept downstream. The dog managed to get out of the chilly water, but on the other side where the man could not reach him.
“In his attempts to get the dog, he got in the water and got swept downstream a quarter of a mile,” Pitterle said.
In the course of his quarter-mile journey, the man went over several waterfalls, eventually going over a 15-foot high waterfall and becoming pinned underneath the water.
Through sheer panic and flailing, the man freed himself and got up onto a rock in the middle of the creek, he said.
Although the man had managed to secure himself on the rock, he could not get off because of the fast-moving creek.
Luckily, the woman with him had witnessed the whole ordeal and called for help.
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office responded and called TRSAR for help.
When Pitterle arrived, he realized the man was located 200 feet down in the middle of a canyon, so it would be impossible to hike in.
Volunteers rigged a pulley system and then lowered Pitterle and another volunteer down to a ledge across from the man. Although the man was still 12 feet away, they managed to toss over a harness.
It took a while for rescuers to talk the man through putting on the harness because he was very cold and had been sitting on the rock for four hours.
“He was not in great shape,” he said.
Since the man did not have the strength, rescuers pulled him up 200 feet.
By 6:30 p.m., the man was safe in his car and had few injuries. However, the dog was still stranded on the other side of the creek. A sheriff’s deputy and several TRSAR volunteers managed to get to the dog and safely bring him back to his owner.
For more information on TRSAR or to donate, visit www.trsar.org.