Fisherman recovering after being stuck in river for 16 hours

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Team coverageIn a dramatic water rescue in Little Cottonwood Canyon this morning, crews freed a man who had been trapped in the rushing water overnight.

Fifty-two-year-old Dean Ririe was conscious when crews pulled him from the cold water. He'd been there, stuck and screaming for help, for more than 16 hours.

If it hadn't been for 11-year-old Alex Malin, crews may not have been able to rescue Ririe in time. Alex was collecting firewood with his dad near Tanner's Flat this morning.

His father, Brian Malin, said, "My son came running up to me and said, 'Hey, Dad. There's a guy screaming for help down by the river.'"

Alex stayed with the fisherman while his father went for help.

Alex said, "He was cold. He needed blankets. He was here overnight, and I felt really bad. And then my dad went to go get the host, and then he came down here, he called everybody, and here they are."

Ririe went fishing near Tanners Flat by himself yesterday. When he stepped in the water, he lost his footing and was carried downstream. He managed to grab a hold of a big rock, but in doing so dislodged it. The rock pinned him in waist-deep water.

Last night, family members knew something was wrong when he didn't return home. Pyllis Bowling, Ririe's mother-in-law, says Ririe's wife attempted her own search early this morning.

"My daughter came up about 3 [a.m.] looking but couldn't find him," Bowling said.

When Ririe was found this morning, rescue crews had to work quickly. "Our number one priority is to get the victim out and make sure he's safe, on top of making sure that we're safe while doing it. That's our main concern," said Brandon Robinson, with the U.S. Forest Service.

Robinson was one of the first on scene. "He was in and out of consciousness. But overall, he was in pretty good condition to have been in the water so long," he said.

He and other rescuers with Salt Lake County Search and Rescue first used ropes to connect themselves to each other and rescuers on the bank. In the water, they used an air-inflated bladder to push apart the boulders pinching Ririe's leg.

Once he was free, rescuers carefully pulled him out and sent him off to the hospital.

"We were thankful when I saw him standing up and being able to communicate with me, you know. We knew things would be OK from that point on," said Lenny Bruno, with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office.

"A lot of good help, a lot of fire workers and people like that helping him get out, and just a tremendous amount of work; and I appreciate everything they've done. And I thank them very much," Bowling said.

Ririe was flown to Intermountain Medical Center for treatment. Hospital officials evaluated him and said he's in good spirits and is communicating with doctors and family.

Rescuers warn even though water levels have dropped off a little bit, these mountain creeks can still be very dangerous if you're not careful. They recommend having somebody with you if you're going to walk along the bank.



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