Lakewood mom dies saving toddler who fell from houseboat at Lake Powell

Posted at 6:28 AM, Aug 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-27 01:05:10-04

HALL'S Crossing, Utah -- When her toddler fell into the water at Lake Powell, a mother jumped into the lake and saved her child, but the mother died.

The 2-year-old child fell from a moving houseboat near Hall's Crossing Tuesday afternoon, according to the San Juan County [Utah] Sheriff's Office.

Deputies said the child was not wearing a life jacket.

"The mother of the child jumped into the water and was able to grab the child," the San Juan County Sheriff's Office wrote in a report posted to social media. "A significant distance developed between the mother and child and the houseboat before the houseboat could be shut down."

Deputies said a family member untied a smaller boat being towed by the houseboat and got to the mother and child.

"The conscious child was rescued from atop the mother’s chest; however, the mother was unconscious when pulled from the water," deputies said.

She was not wearing a life jacket, deputies said.

CPR was performed on the mother for more than 30 minutes, but she died.

She has been identified as Chelsey Russell, 35, of Lakewood, Colorado.

Family and friends said her cause of death was heart failure, not drowning.

Russell was an attorney who focused on mineral title examination, business transactions and regulatory matters before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

"Chelsey was an amazing mother, an exceptional legal talent, an extraordinary athlete, a loyal and generous friend, and left us all better for knowing her," the law firm of Welborn, Sullivan, Meck and Tooley posted on its website. "She is sorely missed."

Friends and colleagues say her final act showed her true spirit.

"She died saving her son," said Amy Seneshen, an managing partner at the firm "It was the epitome of selfless mom action, and I’m not surprised at all that that’s what she did."

"She loved her children so much. I'm not surprised she would be the person that would jump in and save somebody because she was just like that." said Russell’s law school professor, K.K. DuVivier of the University of Denver. "She was smiling all the time. She was just sort of a sunbeam in the law school," she said.                    

Russell was also an endurance athlete, who ran the Leadville 100 last year, and a talented attorney, according to her colleagues. 


The law firm's website said Russell was born and raised in Denver and graduated from the University of Denver. The website said Russell enjoyed running marathons, hiking, skiing and spending time with her family.


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