Beaver Creek search halted |

Beaver Creek search halted

Steve Lynn
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Rescuers brave the fast, powerful water of Beaver Creek on Monday as they continue the search for Mary Brake. (Courtesy Eagle County Sheriff's Office)

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. ” A search in the raging waters of Beaver Creek for a Nebraska woman missing since Friday evening was halted Monday until the water level drops, authorities said.

“We are at a point now where we have exhausted every option available for whitewater rescue with no results, and have to wait until the conditions of the water change,” Dan Smith of Vail Mountain Rescue Group said in a statement.

Mary Brake, 56, a prominent Lincoln, Neb., Realtor, disappeared after the horse she was riding fell while crossing the creek Friday evening. She was headed to Beano’s Cabin, an upscale restaurant on Beaver Creek Mountain, with her husband and 9-year-old daughter.

As of Sunday morning, the search officially became an effort to recover a body instead of a rescue effort, according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities resumed their search at 7 a.m. Monday and announced they’d ended it at about 5 p.m.

“I just thank everybody there for doing their best,” said Marty Allen, Brake’s sister who was waiting for news of the recovery Monday afternoon. “I just really want people to know that.”

Brake was a devoted mother and loving wife who enjoyed swimming and riding horses with her daughter, friends and family said. She also was an outgoing, athletic person with a successful career who was active in several charities.

“She gives back to everybody at all times,” Allen said.

Brake’s husband, Gene, is the president of HomeServices of Nebraska, which owns the dominant real estate firms in Lincoln ” Home Real Estate and Woods Bros. Realty ” the Lincoln Journal-Star reported on its website.

Brake and her family were on their way to Beano’s Cabin, only accessible by horseback, sleigh, tractor-pulled wagon or shuttle, when her horse lost its footing in the creek.

Brake was able to hold onto the saddle for a few minutes before she was washed away. The horse was recovered downstream with minor injuries.

“The mission will not be called off until we can reunite Mary with her family,” Sheriff Joe Hoy said in a statement. “This remains an open case that will be revisited by local authorities and rescue experts when more opportune conditions exist.”

Cordingly declined to say when the search would resume and under what conditions that would take place. Hoy did not return a telephone message requesting comment and Smith declined to comment Monday.

“We can’t speculate,” Cordingly said. “It’s not fair to do to the family.”

“Obviously we want to get back out there as soon as we can,” she added. “We’re not done.”

Rescuers from 16 different agencies worked more than a total of 2,100 hours during three-and-a half-days. The search covered almost all the 3.5 miles of Beaver Creek, the sheriff’s office said.

John Willson, deputy chief of operations for the Eagle River Fire Protection District, said firefighters would be happy to search again with the sheriff’s office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group and other agencies once the creek’s waters recede.

Earlier in the search, authorities said the water was so high it made searching certain parts of the creek impossible.

Three Eagle River Fire firefighters helped search for Brake Sunday from the site of the accident to Beaver Creek Chapel. On Monday, they went from the chapel to near the entrance of Beaver Creek, close to the intersection of Avon Road and U.S. Highway 6, and then started again from the site of the accident, he said.

“They all did that very, very slowly,” he said.

The Eagle County Ambulance District had an ambulance crew of two paramedics in case anyone got hurt during the efforts, said Peter Brandes, the district’s operations manager.

“It’s a pretty high-risk endeavor to be in that creek,” he said.

Mounted horse-patrol and water-rescue crews combed 3.5 miles of the creek from where Brake was last seen. Search and rescue dogs searched spots where they picked up Brake’s scent but were unable to find her.

The area also was searched by boat by Clear Creek County Search and Rescue and from the air by the Colorado National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Center.

John Garnsey, chief operating officer of Beaver Creek Mountain and executive vice president of Vail Resorts, thanked the Sheriff’s Office for its leadership during the rescue and recovery effort. Brake went missing on land that Beaver Creek Mountain uses on a special permit from the U.S. Forest Service.

“We are also grateful to the numerous agencies and volunteers that have been on site to lend their expertise for this effort,” Garnsey said in a statement. “Our deepest sympathies and prayers remain with the family at this time.”