Mother who died saving 2-year-old son at Lake Powell named

Stock image | St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A mother was enjoying a family boat trip across Lake Powell when she heard a scream and splash. Her 2-year-old son had slipped off their houseboat and into the water.

Chelsey Russell, a 35-year-old mother of two from Lakewood, Colorado, jumped in to rescue her son. She managed to keep the toddler above water for five agonizing minutes until a relative pulled him safely back onto the boat.

But by that point, Russell was unconscious. She was pulled from the water and rushed to shore at the nearby marina, where bystanders and officials performed CPR Tuesday afternoon.

After about 30 minutes, they determined they couldn’t save the woman who just rescued her son.

Officials with Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which encompasses the 186-mile-long lake along the Utah-Arizona border, said the boy was in stable condition and flown to a hospital about 200 miles away in Flagstaff, Arizona, as a precaution.

The houseboat had been traveling about 8 mph toward shore when the boy, playing with another child, somehow fell off, San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge said Friday.

After Russell jumped in, her brother stopped the boat and hopped in after his sister, leaving Russell’s mother and at least one other child aboard.

The boat had kept moving after Russell went in and the man realized he was too far away from her and the child, Eldredge said. So he returned to the vessel to retrieve a motorboat they had been towing. The knots tethering it were so tight that he had to cut them with a knife.

Russell was in the water for at least five minutes before her brother could reach them and take the conscious toddler from her chest. Throughout that time, she kept her son above water, her family told authorities.

She was holding the baby out of the water the best that she could,” Eldredge said.

The sheriff said neither Russell nor her son wore life jackets. They are required for boaters under 12, according to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

The sheriff’s office was waiting for the Utah medical examiner to determine Russell’s cause of death, but Eldredge said it was suspected to be drowning. He did not know when the medical examiner would make a ruling.

There are no words to convey the tragedy of losing a loved one like this,” Teri Tucker, acting superintendent for the recreation area, said in a statement. “Our hearts are with the family and friends of the victims during this time of unexpected pain and loss.”

It’s the sixth death at the recreation area this year.

Russell’s co-workers at a Denver law firm remembered her as a “superstar” attorney, mother and marathon runner who competed in a 100-mile race last year.

“She was a talented lawyer, loved by everyone in this firm,” attorney Keith Tooley said Friday. “She was just a rock star here. Her passing has just crushed us all.”

Story by MICHELLE L. PRICE, Associated Press

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • RealMcCoy August 27, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    A simple law requiring life vests would have prevented this tragedy.
    Wait, what? There is already a law about that?
    That can’t be!
    Anti-gun nuts argue that laws prevent tragic deaths.
    I’m sure they’d hate to see the flaws in their theory.
    Maybe we should make a law declaring Lake Powell illegal. After all, “It’s the sixth death at the recreation area this year.” Doesn’t that make the lake a mass killer?

    • .... August 29, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Well you can ask Bob about that. He’s the expert

  • Bob August 27, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    very sad. Sounds like she was very athletic, but maybe she didn’t do a lot of swimming. A very low amount of body fat as a marathon runner may have might have been detrimental when it comes to treading water, but usually with drowning in a lake the victim will go completely under and retrieval isn’t as easy as pulling the victim from the water. Very unusual and … hmm

  • .... August 28, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Something with this whole story doesn’t make sense. I’m curious as to what really happened. I’m happy the child survived and saddened by the mothers death. condolences to the family. but this story just doesn’t sound right

    • Bob August 28, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      Seems like they’re always leaving out details that would make a story more clear. I despise the AP– i doubt they did anything to investigate this report other than making a few phone calls. Maybe everyone on that boat was drunk. Maybe they were too drunk too remember how to do CPR and that’s why the woman died after being pulled out. Maybe the toddler wasn’t being watched close because everyone was drunk. Maybe the whole frickin boatload was just drunk. One big drunk party boat. LOL, we’ll never know

      • .... August 29, 2016 at 8:53 am

        Well that’s just your opinion Bob. just another load of hot air. and you don’t know anything about what happened. but everything is okay now because of you we all know the truth LOL !

    • Bob August 28, 2016 at 7:08 pm

      and i’m sure the condolences of “….” the stgnews troll makes the family feel so much better… LOL

  • anybody home August 28, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    The mother’s death is a tragedy and I offer condolences to the family. But really, why would this intelligent, smart mother, lawyer, flout the law and let her 2-year-old child on a boat without a life jacket – a life jacket required for children this age. There are a lot of questions in this story.

    • .... August 29, 2016 at 8:56 am

      Hey Bob anybody home gave his condolences also ! you run out of stupid comments ?

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