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Girl talks about hard lessons learned

Teen who nearly drowned warns others about cliff-jumping danger

A 15-year-old girl who had a frightening experience after jumping into the Animas River near Bakers Bridge on Monday night is warning others not to attempt the feat.

“I was terrified I was going to die,” Maria Jimenez said in an interview Wednesday.

Jimenez said she had been jumping off the cliffs by Bakers Bridge into the Animas with her brother Monday night when she got caught in the Animas’s strong current, which dragged her downstream.

She traveled a quarter of a mile before the currents thrust her into the path of a narrow rock outcropping in the middle of the river.

“I was under water for more than two minutes. I am still in shock. I was just hoping to get out of there as fast as I could and breach the rock. But I wasn’t strong enough. The currents kept pulling me under,” she said.

Footage of the rescue shows a large team of emergency workers working to cross the river to save Jimenez – who plunged into the river wearing just a shirt and shorts with no shoes, helmet or life jacket – more than a thousand feet downstream of Bakers Bridge. In the video, Jimenez is shivering atop the bank of jagged rocks on which she washed up, surrounded by fast-moving water.

The call went out to emergency workers at 7:12 p.m. Jimenez was stranded in the middle of the river for more than an hour before emergency workers could retrieve her and take her to the shore.

“I was freezing,” she said. “By the end, they were working with the ropes, and I was almost impatient – just desperate to get onto the shore.”

Dan Steves, a firefighter and paramedic with Durango Fire Protection District, said it was “miraculous” that the girl washed upon the small island instead of “getting swept away.”

In one email, Jimenez said she was shaken by her brush with death, and a couple of people “were surprised that a 15-year-old (like) me survived.”

cmcallister@durangoherald.com

Sep 20, 2021
Animas River too high, too cold to raft without life jackets
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