Locals receive landslide of appreciation for bravery during Mitchell Creek debris flow
Commendations were awarded to two men Thursday night in recognition of their heroic actions during the Mitchell Creek mudslide on the night of Aug. 5.
Glenwood Springs Police Lt. Lou Vallario and Glenwood Springs Fish Hatchery manager Rich Kolecki were presented the awards at the beginning of the Glenwood Springs City Council meeting, the first held in the new City Hall.
The awards were presented by Glenwood Springs Mayor Don Vanderhoof, police chief Terry Wilson, and by Russell George, director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Despite the dangerous flooding and mudslides that poured down Mitchell Creek that night, Kolecki and Vallario waded through rushing mud and rocks to rescue a mother and daughter trapped in their cars by the slide.
Ann Martin, a Valley View nurse, recalled the terrifying experience and the two rescuers who helped her and her daughter, Audra Dobbs..
“I rolled down the passenger side window, and they were yelling, `Get out! Get out!’ I climbed out the passenger side window. They went up and got my daughter, and they helped us get through the mud,” she said the day after the mudslide.
“They really risked their lives in that mud. It was so swift,” she said.
“The situation that night was one of obvious danger for the folks caught in the mud flow,” Wilson said. “To go into that situation and put yourself on the line is the highest standard of public service and humanity. … I wouldn’t have expected anything less.”
One of Wilson’s sergeants came up with the idea of the commendation plaques.
“We, as the bosses, try to tell our troops `Thank you’ for their actions. And sometimes we forget that us old guys do pretty good, too,” said Wilson.
In presenting the plaque to Kolecki, George said, “This was just so typical of the way you guys live your lives and how you act. You make all of us proud.”
Aside from the name and color of the plaques – Vallario’s was blue and Kolecki’s was green – they had the same inscription:
“On August 5th, 2002, a mudslide occurred in the fire-ravaged Mitchell Creek drainage. Two residents were unable to make it to safety and found themselves stranded in mud and rocks that reached 175 feet wide. Into this dangerous situation, two men waded to their cars and helped the residents to safety, despite obvious risk to their personal safety.
“For these actions we recognize these men, and applaud their courageous efforts.
“Issued by the Colorado Division of Wildlife – Director Russell George
“August 15th, 2002”
“I’m pleased to know these guys, and I think they showed who they really are and how good they are for the community,” Wilson said.
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