(Riverton, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, the Riverton Fire Department’s Swifft Water Rescue Team and others successfully rescued a young boy off an island in the middle of the Little Wind River south of Riverton about 1 p.m. Monday afternoon.
Trulan Oldman, 10, and four other youths were playing and swimming in the Little Wind near the Sand Draw Highway bridge when they became caught up in the current and were swept downstream. Four of the youths made it to the south shore of the river, but Oldman, swam to the island.
Undersheriff Ryan Lee was in the area and made the call for the rescue, since there was swift water on both sides of the island.
As the swift water rescue team was launching a raft to go fetch the child, a woman, reportedly the child’s auntie, drove up to the scene, ran down the highway, emptied her pockets on the railing of the bridge’s northwestern side, raced down to the river’s edge and, according to Riverton Fire Chief Mike Hutchison, attempted to jump into the water and tried to get the young man to come to her. “He almost did,” Hutchison said, “but fortunately, he stayed put. That could’ve been really bad.” A BIA Wind River Police Officer and another sheriff’s deputy on shore stopped the woman and she was led away from the scene up to the highway swearing and cursing and in handcuffs, where two BIA officers escorted her across the bridge and into one of their patrol vehicles.
As that was happening, the rescue raft, with Matt Lee, Nate Lee and Brian Hutchins aboard wearing wet suits and helmets, reached the southern shore of the island, made their way to Oldman, placed him in a life jacket, and took him back to the raft. The raft had been anchored on the riverbank with a long rope and as the four shoved off from the island, rowing furiously, others on the shore pulled the rope and the raft ended up safely on the river bank.
Oldman was escorted by a sheriff’s deputy across a field next to the river and up to the highway to his mother, who said the kids were not supposed to be in the river, but playing in a nearby ditch. When he saw his mom, Oldman burst into tears and began crying as she wrapped her arms around him and picked him up and carried him to a waiting vehicle. “We just went into town to get some pop,” she said, “and came back to this. Later in the year the river is low and the kids can wade across…. ” she said without finishing the sentence.
Matt Lee, one of the youth’s rescuers in the raft, said Oldman was plenty scared, but followed their instructions.
It is not known if the woman detained at the scene was arrested. The BIA patrol vehicle with her inside drove away after the child was rescued.
Hutchison said it was the first time since the floods of 2010 and 2011 that the swift water rescue team was placed into action.
In addition to the men in the raft, Hutchison and Assistant Chief Scott Walters, other RFD personnel at the scene included Cory Higgs, Kim Wells, Ron Caines, and Dave Witthar.
“Obviously, I’m real happy with the outcome,” Walters said as units cleared the scene.
–reported and photographed by County10.com’s Ernie Over. Click on image to enlarge.