Aspen Fire Department tributes lifesaving heroes at Friday ceremony |

Aspen Fire Department tributes lifesaving heroes at Friday ceremony

Staff report
Pictured from left are Colt Sutherlin, Caden Howe and Sawyer McKenney. On June 18, Sutherlin and Howe saved McKenney after he slipped into the punchbowl near the Grottos Trail off Independence Pass.

The heroic efforts of people who have been instrumental in major rescue efforts this year were recognized at a special ceremony held Friday at the Aspen Fire Station.

Those honored included everyone from aiding bystanders to 911 agency personnel. This year has seen the lives saved of two people in cardiac arrest and another person who was close to drowning to death.

Two of the rescuers acknowledged were area residents Colt Sutherlin and Caden Howe, as well as their friend and survivor, Sawyer McKenney.

On June 18, the three had finished exploring the ice caves at the Grottos. McKenney, 17, walked toward the water’s edge to rinse off his hands, but slipped on a rock and into the nearby pool of roiling water. McKenney immediately went below the surface of the water and was pushed against a log.

Howe, 18, couldn’t reach McKenney. Yet Howe was able to kick the log, dislodging McKenney and sending him over a waterfall and pinning him against another log in the pool below. That’s when 12-year-old Colt Sutherlin spotted McKenney, and Howe tried to use his shirt for McKenney to grab, but his only visible hand was limp.

Howe then went into the pool between Sawyer and the next waterfall, pushing him up from under the water, where Sutherin got a hand on his shirt. The pair were able to muscle McKenney up on to the rocks. 

Howe performed CPR on McKenney while Sutherlin looked for help. A couple of minutes later, after undergoing CPR, McKenney started to cough up water and breathe on this own.

The details of the rescue were included in an account of the incident provided by Scott Arthur, training captain at the Aspen Fire Protection District.

“Shortly after that he woke up to ask his friend if he was alive,” according to Arthur’s account. “Other bystanders were able to provide assistance in getting Sawyer away from the water and covered with coats to stave off the hypothermia from the ice-cold water. Shortly later Sawyer was able to assist rescue personnel in walking out to the ambulance for the ride to the hospital.”


See more