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Authorities ID woman missing after Jeep swept away in swollen Pole Creek; search efforts intensify

Posted at 3:30 PM, Jul 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-01 17:37:19-04

LAKE CITY, Colo. — A woman traveling in a Jeep with her husband in southwestern Colorado Thursday remains missing after she was swept away in Pole Creek as the pair tried to cross the swollen waterway in the vehicle.

The woman, identified as Jessie Strickland, 64, of Kentwood, Louisiana, has not been located, and the search for her continues in an eight-mile area along the banks of Pole Creek to the Rio Grande River and on to the Rio Grande Reservoir, the Hinsdale County Office of Emergency Management posted on Facebook Monday.

Strickland and her husband, Tommy Strickland, were visiting the area and staying in Silverton when they attempted to cross the creek on a return trip from the neighboring town of Creede, the post read. The couple had successfully crossed the waterway earlier, but it had become swollen with runoff during the day.

“According to Tommy Strickland, the couple’s Jeep stalled in the creek and was swept downstream a short distance. When the vehicle began filling with water, the couple climbed on to the roof. With no one around to provide assistance, Strickland said they decided the best course of action was to jump from the vehicle and try to reach the shore,” Hinsdale County OEM wrote.

“Mr. Strickland said he and his wife were both swept downstream. He was attempting to help his wife to the shore but was unsuccessful. Ultimately he was able to reach the bank, but she was not and has not been seen since. Mr. Strickland was found by passersby and taken to Silverton to contact authorities.”

Crews from Hinsdale County and neighboring San Juan County have been searching the creek and surrounding area since Thursday. Additional resources and search operations are planned in the coming days, according to Hinsdale County OEM.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to Mr. Strickland and his family as they go through this incredibly difficult time,” said Hinsdale County Sheriff Justin Casey.

At least nine people have died in Colorado waters this season. Snowmelt from an above-average season is causing dangerous conditions on the state’s rivers and creeks. Authorities have closed the passage at Pole Creek because of conditions.

Those recreating in the backcountry are advised to use caution around waterways of any type and to avoid crossing streams and rivers entirely, Hinsdale OEM wrote.