Sep 16, 2015

Powell kayakers rescued from Buffalo Bill Reservoir on Tuesday

A fast response from local search and rescue personnel may have saved the lives of a Powell couple on Tuesday, the Park County Sheriff's Office says.

The couple  Daniel P. Thomas, 34, and Jenny L. Thomas, 32  reportedly went into the Buffalo Bill Reservoir shortly before noon, when their kayaks overturned.

Witnesses later told the sheriff's office that Jenny Thomas flipped first and her kayak immediately sunk; the strong winds then toppled Daniel Thomas' craft, but it stayed afloat. The couple clung to the remaining kayak, but the wind pushed them south and further from the shore, Park County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lance Mathess wrote in a Tuesday evening news release.

The Buffalo Bill Reservoir, as seen from the dam. Cody News Co. file photo by Matt Naber
The Thomases had reportedly been kayaking about a half-mile west of the Buffalo Bill Dam and 200 yards from the reservoir's north shore.

"Both victims were dressed only in shorts and a t-shirt and neither was wearing a personal flotation device," Mathess said.

The sheriff's office was notified at 11:59 a.m. and search and rescue personnel, a deputy and a Buffalo Bill State Park Ranger were immediately dispatched.

"When rescue personnel arrived, both subjects had been in the water for over 20 minutes," Mathess said.

Members of the search and rescue team used an inflatable rescue craft to reach the Thomases around 12:40 p.m.

Once back on shore, they were treated for hypothermia at the scene by an ambulance crew from West Park Hospital.

"The deputy on scene stated that he believes the victims would have most certainly succumbed to hypothermia if it weren’t for the quick and immediate actions of the search and rescue personnel," Mathess wrote
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Sheriff Scott Steward said recreationists should always wear flotation devices while on the water.

"The deputy on scene stated that he believes the victims would have most certainly succumbed to hypothermia if it weren’t for the quick and immediate actions of the search and rescue personnel," said Lance Mathess, a spokesman for the sheriff's office

The sheriff's office highlighted data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicating that, of the hundreds of people who die in boating accidents each year, around 90 percent were not wearing a personal flotation device.

"They are an essential safety measure regardless of your swimming abilities,” Steward said in the release.

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