Woman vanishes in Beaver Creek | AspenTimes.com

Woman vanishes in Beaver Creek

Matt Zalaznick
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
A member of the search and rescue team was on the scene Saturday morning with a search dog. (Eagle County Sheriff's Office)

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. ” Water that was dangerously high and fast Saturday hampered the search for a 56-year-old woman who fell off a horse and into Beaver Creek on Friday.

Rescuers suspended the search for Mary Brake ” a prominent Lincoln, Neb., Realtor ” on Saturday evening, just about 24 hours after she disappeared.

“Right now the water’s working against us,” said Shannon Cordingly, a spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s been high and moving so fast, there are areas in the middle of the creek that we can’t check until it goes down.”

The search was suspended with a few hours of daylight remaining because of the length of time many of the rescuers had been working, Cordingly said.

The search began at 7 a.m. Saturday and was scheduled to resume at the same time Sunday.

“Because the water’s moving at such a high rate of speed, it’s dangerous,” Cordingly said. “If one of our guys falls in, it isn’t an easy self-rescue.”

Not only is the creek full of rocks, but the surging water has dragged small trees into the creek, she said.

“We’ve checked from the point the woman fell of the horse all the way down to the confluence of the Eagle as well as multiple hotspots, multiple times,” Cordingly said.

By “hotspots,” Cordingly was referring to parts of the creek where search dogs, which sniffed articles of Brake’s clothing, picked up a scent but could not lead rescuers to the woman.

“Rescuers always hold out hope,” Cordingly said. “It’s reached the 24-hour mark, but we’re still calling it a rescue.”

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.

“The current of the water was so quick that before Gene (Brake) knew it, (Mary) was down,” Mike Elgert, of Home Real Estate, told the Lincoln Journal-Star. “He made it sound like she went, actually, over a waterfall.”

Elgert, managing broker for Home Real Estate, told the Lincoln Journal-Star he spoke to Gene Brake on Saturday morning.

“Much has transpired since then,” Elgert told the Lincoln Journal-Star. “(Gene) simply said what everybody knows ” that they have not yet found her.”

Mary Brake, along with her husband and daughter, was riding the horse to dinner at Beano’s Cabin with her family when the horse lost its footing around 6 p.m.

“The female was able to hold onto a saddle for three minutes, and then she was washed downstream,” Cordingly said. “It’s a good thing no one from the group jumped in because then we’d be looking for more people.”

Callie Kenyon, a family friend, said she heard from family members at the scene that Mary Brake was able to hold on to branches before she was swept away.

“She was able to fight from what they saw,” Kenyon said.

Spotty cell-phone coverage in the area where Mary Brake disappeared prevented the group from calling for help immediately, Cordingly said.

Brake’s husband and daughter remain in Colorado and have been joined by some members of her extended family, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported.

Officials initially reported that the horse was euthanized, but later they said they recovered the horse farther downstream and that it had only minor injuries.

The horses have been doing tours to the restaurant since June 7, and there weren’t any unusual or unsafe conditions Friday, but the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, Cordingly said.

Beano’s Cabin is an upscale restaurant on Beaver Creek Mountain that is only accessible by horseback, sleigh, tractor-pulled wagon or shuttle.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Vail Mountain Rescue, the Eagle River Fire Protection District, Beaver Creek Mountain crews, Greater Eagle River Fire, Summit County Search and Rescue, the National Guard, the Eagle County Ambulance District, Beaver Creek Stables and the Salvation Army are working together on the rescue operation.