Friday’s rescue of a woman stuck in the frigid Snoqualmie River might have had a different outcome if Snoqualmie resident, Justin Rose, hadn’t been in the right place at the right time.
Justin was fishing on the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River (between North Bend and Snoqualmie) on Friday, when unbeknownst to him, he was launched into a life-saving river rescue effort.
He said when he arrived at the river that afternoon a woman was walking on the opposite shore and asked him if he knew a way to get back to his side of the river, mentioning that she nearly fell in while crossing earlier. Justin informed her she would need to “bushwack” her way out through the woods or head downstream and walk out through a neighborhood.
She opted to cross the river again. Justin offered her help. She declined and began crossing toward his location, just upstream from a sweeping right hand turn of the Snoqualmie River.
Justin said she made it about halfway across and became stuck. He waded out to help, up to about waist deep, managing to get within 10 feet of the woman. But he said there was “just way too much water.”
So he instructed her to slowly work her way back to her side as he retreated toward his shore. That’s when he heard the dreaded word, “Whoops.”
The woman was swept away into the big right hand turn of the river. Justin said she was under water for about 30 seconds before emerging. Then her backpack became stuck on a log protruding out into the deep water. Only her head and one arm were out of the cold water – and she was too far out for Justin to reach.
He called 911, but because they were in an area of the river accessed by an unmapped trail, it took about 15 minutes for emergency crews to arrive. Justin ran from the river to the trailhead to bring in King County Sheriff Officers, as well as the North Bend Eastside Fire and Rescue Chief and an off-duty firefighter – both whom responded after hearing the distress call come in.
Justin said after returning from another trip to the trailhead with the Swift Water Rescue Team, the North Bend Fire Chief and the off-duty firefighter were shinnying out on the log into the river, grabbing the trapped woman. Justin described the firefighters’ lifesaving effort as “super brave stuff.”
Swift Water Rescue crews then went to work and Justin estimated within 2 minutes had the woman roped up and out of the water.
She was completely hypothermic after spending approximately 25 minutes in the ice-cold Snoqualmie River. She was treated by firefighters/paramedics on shore and transported to Swedish Hospital in Issaquah.
North Bend Police Chief, Mark Toner, said that Justin “did a great job from beginning to end.” Adding, “He was essential in getting help on scene, including running the trail countless times to ensure that the rescuers would respond to the right spot.”
It was a happy ending Friday night. It was a perfect combination of “right place, right time” coupled with bravery and expertly trained rescue crews.
This time, helicopters in the Snoqualmie Valley sky didn’t bring sad news.