The morning after the happy ending, ‘R’, ‘H’ and I were making ready for a drive to Yuma for propane and another tour through the Arizona Market. ‘R’ was busy securing the propane bottles in the box of his truck, ‘H’ and I were giving instructions, like a truck driver did not know how to tie stuff down.
Our neighbor from the river walked up and introduced himself, “hello I’m Andre”, I detected a heavy French accent,……… we returned with our names. Andre shook each of our hands energetically while thanking us for our efforts. “You people saved our lives you know, my wife and I are very grateful”.
Andre a tall man, graying, with several days beard growth. His build was thick but toned, his wrinkled face announced his age, well into his 70’s as was my thought on our first encounter. He moved well as a person much younger.
He introduced Chloe, the monster dog, we had brought to life the night before when knocking on the motor home door. Chloe was actually much smaller in person. Andre told us she would have caused us much discomfort if we had managed to invade her privacy, licking us raw.
We laughed at the thought of us backing away from the motor home door in fear of the caged beast coming through the door to maul us to death.
The guys and I continued with our plans for the day, a trip to Yuma.
Late afternoon the campfire was lit and we gathered for our daily ritual, it began as usual, one of the group would announce time to stop what your doing it’s ‘Happy Hour’.
No arm twisting ever for anyone, besides tonight was special we would have a new couple joining us to tell their tale. As soon as the group had gathered Andre and Lynn walked the short distance from their rig to the campfire. Carrying their own chairs, a tradition well known around campgrounds as few people travel with extra chairs.
Introductions followed, most of us had not met Lynn or Chloe. Lynn, as I had indicated previously was much younger than Andre, although I would not venture a guess, not a good idea, I have discovered. If required to guess subtract 5 years from your estimate just to be safe. You will stay out of trouble and maybe even make some brownie points.
Lynn looked to be in good physical condition, quite slim and trim I guess one would say. She sat quiet as Andre spoke of their ordeal.
Andre started (these are his words as near as I can recall)
We live in San Diego and come here often to enjoy the lake and jet ski. We had a busy summer and no time to use the jet ski. We often enjoy riding the jet ski in the ocean but the season ended before time permitted.
We decided on a trip to Squaw lake for a few days before the season ended, the lake and river would be warmer than the ocean and the sun always shines in the desert.
We left camp and Chloe yesterday at noon for Martinez Lake and Fishers Landing. We had visited this quaint settlement many times in previous years. I have spent many years exploring this river and the lakes formed by the dam.
On our way to Fishers Landing the spray from the cooling exhaust shoots into the air behind the jet ski. It was landing on us, the cold water spray was quite uncomfortable.
Arriving at Fishers Landing I decided to take a look under the jet ski cover to see if I could change something to eliminate the spray. I found the hose that was causing the problem and detached it leaving it lying on the bottom of the engine compartment.
Not thinking this would be a problem…………. in hind site I should have thought the idea through.
Lynn and I climbed aboard the jet ski and headed up the river from Fishers Landing, we were traveling along the river channel enjoying the ride when the jet ski’s engine quit and began to sink.
It sank quickly, we were not wearing life jackets, I remembered reading that the seats from the jet ski could be used for floatation if needed.
I swam to the jet ski that was sitting on the bottom, detached the seats, and floated to the surface. The seats worked OK and kept the upper part of our bodies out of the cold water.
This happened at 2 pm, fortunately Lynn had put her cell phone in a zip lock bag to keep it dry. It didn’t have a full charge so we used it sparingly. We called 911 and gave our position of approximately 10 miles north of the Imperial Dam on the Colorado river.
The 911 operator asked many questions; were we hurt, could we swim, where was the jet ski, what happened to the jet ski, were we using drugs or alcohol, was either of us on any medication, do either of us have any physical or mental disabilities and many other silly questions.
All the while we were worried the cell’s battery would die. Lynn shut the phone off to conserve the battery. The water was cold, at first it didn’t bother us, but after a few hours we were chilled.
The thought of trying to get to shore was soon abandoned, a ½ mile of dense brush growing in deep mud in the shallows was too much of an obstacle.
We floated for hours, it was cold, we pulled ourselves onto a sand bar to try and get our bodies out of the cold water, although the air wasn’t much warmer and cooling fast.
At one point as it was getting dark we heard a boat speeding toward us on the other side of the river. Lynn and I could hardly contain our excitement as the boat neared, we were going to be saved for sure.
Screaming and waving, jumping and splashing the water trying desperately to get the attention of the fast moving boat. It didn’t happen, unable to get the occupants attention, sadness and defeat set in.
Darkness came quickly on the river, we knew it would be unlikely another boat would happen by in the dark. Even if one did it would be difficult to see us through the darkness.
We had been in the water for several hours, the only light was from Lynn’s cell phone, but the battery was dyeing. Lynn called 911 again, we were put on hold for ages while the 911 operator checked to see what was happening, in the end all that was said was our situation was being dealt with.
The operator said they were trying to locate our cell signal with no luck, Lynn became upset and started to cry as she told the operator, we need to shut the phone off to save the battery. Lynn was so upset she could not speak.
Lynn handed the phone to me, I was angry and desperate, I tried to keep my cool as I talked to the dim wit on the other end. We are floating in the dark on the Colorado River. We need someone to help us out of this freezing water.
We have been floating in this freezing water since 2 o’clock this afternoon. It is now 6 o’clock and it’s dark, we’re freezing to death. My wife phoned 911 immediately after our jet ski sank, she was told to stay calm and not to worry, a rescue boat would be dispatched, immediately.
What is going on, why hasn’t someone come to find us, are we going to die out here in the night?………… we are freezing. I was getting desperate it was a pitch black night, the air was biting cold, we were getting colder by the minute and hungry. We had a light lunch before the ride and the granola bars were lost with the jet ski.
The 911 person apologized and confirmed a rescue was under way. I ended the call. My mind was racing, I was so cold, my trust in the 911 rescue was gone, how could this be, 911 is supposed to be our life line, emergency crews are advertised to be at the ready 24/7. I don’t understand.
I need to try something else before the phone is dead. Lynn had stopped sobbing and blurted out to call someone back home in San Diego. I angered what good would that do, they are a day’s drive away. Lynn said tell them to call 911.
Call Ralph, she said, he’s smart and resourceful…………he’ll help us, or what about Henry he should be home from the Ozarks ………he landed yesterday. Our battery is almost dead we may only have a minute or two left to talk.
OK. I turned on the phone and searched for Henry’s number, precious battery power is being used. There’s his number I touch it, put the phone to my ear, ring ring ring, this is Henry not here, I ended the call, #$@% bad language, Henry.
I hurriedly found Ralph’s number, touched it and waited for the ring to start, it took forever, I glanced at Lynn’s terrified face, things were going from bad to worse…..Hello….it was Ralph,………… he’s home………. my heart was jumping out of my chest…………you don’t have much time….. be calm…….what am I going to say?
Stay tuned for the last article on this couples survival in the Colorado River, in a couple of days.