Authorities rescued a man who fled to the Animas River after allegedly trying to break into vehicles and release dogs near Walmart.
Durango Fire Protection District, Durango Police Department and the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call.
Cpl. Nick Stasi with the Durango Police Department said the man told them he only was trying to free the dogs.
“He said he didn’t like them being locked up in the cars,” Stasi said.
No dogs actually were released, but the man was witnessed by more than one person, and two men reported his activity.
“One of the people who called about him confronted him and chased him down to the river, which is not something we encourage,” Stasi said. “The (reporting party) had followed him so far that he jumped in the river to get away, and then he started floating downstream.”
Stasi said the man floated about 75 yards before he was able to reach the safety of a rock, and when authorities tried to throw the man a rope, which he caught briefly, he let go and continued downriver.
Tony Harwig with DFPD said two members of a DFPD swiftwater-rescue team went in after the man, reaching him in the nick of time.
“He was floating face down, down the river, and they just couldn’t get him, so they had to go in,” he said.
Rescuers initiated CPR but found the man to be “unconscious and breathing.” One rescuer called it “a close one.”
The man was found by authorities to be intoxicated and possibly in a state of mental crisis, calling for special training and a different skill set, Stasi said.
He said the wooded riverbanks near Walmart long have been a popular place for transient camps, and he encouraged people to lock their vehicles.
“I would discourage people from confronting people in the way they did here, and just be a good witness instead of getting yourself involved further,” he said.
The man was transported to Mercy Regional Medical Center and admitted to the intensive-care unit.