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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Helicopters Rescue Schoolchildren in Colorado Floods

In this video from the National Guard, a Ch-47 Chinook helicopter from the Second Battalion, Fourth Aviation Regiment out of Fort Carson, Colo., picked up children near Jamestown who were stranded after attending an outdoor environmental program.

Eighty-five Colorado schoolchildren and 14 adults, trapped while attending an environmental camp program in a mountain town cut off by floodwater, were among the hundreds of people evacuated by helicopter this weekend in the aftermath of the state’s worst flooding in years.

Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback with the Colorado National Guard told reporters that it might have been the first time since Hurricane Katrina that so many people needed to be airlifted to safety. Since Thursday, the flooding has killed at least four people, washed away roads and homes, and caused widespread devastation across Boulder, Larimer and Weld Counties, north of Denver.

On Sunday, officials announced that President Obama had approved federal disaster aid as rescue efforts continued for hundreds of people who were still unaccounted for, meaning that family or friends had not been able to contact them.

Colonel Utterback said Saturday that helicopter crews, grounded on the first day of severe flooding because of heavy rain, had been working around the clock. There is concern that heavy rains on Sunday could again halt helicopter rescue efforts.

Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback with the Colorado National Guard giving an update on rescue operations via ABC’s Channel 7 News in Denver.
In Boulder County, video from the National Guard showing rescue efforts in Lyons.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and other elected officials who were aboard a National Guard helicopter, conducting an aerial survey of the flood damage, rescued people they saw waving for help on Highway 34, near Rocky Mountain National Park. The governor posted on Twitter about picking up four people, a dog and a cat â€" and then two others.

In Jamestown, 150 people were airlifted to safety, in addition to the fifth-graders and chaperones from Fireside Elementary School in Louisville, Colo., about 10 miles south of Boulder.

The students were attending a program on Thursday at the Cal-Wood Education Center when rising waters from heavy rain destroyed bridges and roads in the area. They were transported by helicopters to Boulder Municipal Airport and then bused to their school where parents, friends and family were waiting.

Dustin Sagrillo, 34, one of the stranded parent volunteers, told the Boulder Daily Camera that parents cooked food and led activities with the children while another group shoveled trenches and cleared debris.

“The kids were having fun either way,” he said.

School and camp officials kept parents updated throughout the ordeal on the school’s Web site and on Facebook.

Other schoolchildren attending a program at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, were also stranded. They were rescued by a caravan of vehicles that traveled through the national park, over Trail Ridge Road, because other roads into Estes Park had been washed away, according to news report from ABC’s Channel 7 on the rescue efforts and the reunion between parents and children.

Students from Pine Grove Elementary School in Parker, attending a program near Rocky Mountain National Park, were rescued by a caravan that traveled across Trail Ridge Road.