Columbia Power lineworkers rescue woman from the freezing waters of Camas Creek.

By Jody Foss

Jack Jewell, left, and Garrett Warner arrived on an accident scene in time to rescue a California driver and her dog. Photo courtesy of Columbia Power Cooperative

Columbia Power Cooperative’s lineworkers never know what the day will bring when they head to work.

On June 20, Garrett Warner and Jack Jewell were in the right place at the right time to help rescue Cheryl Patterson, 69, of Olivehurst, California, and her dog from the freezing waters of Camas Creek outside of Ukiah.

Cheryl’s Kia minivan had started sliding when she overcorrected on a curve. The van flipped over two or three times before rolling into the middle of the creek near the Grant/Umatilla county line.

A passenger was able to escape the vehicle, but Cheryl and her dog were left behind.

Garrett and Jack were headed to a job site in Ukiah when Garrett spotted the car in the creek. He radioed to Jack in another service truck for assistance.

The men assessed the situation and thought quickly. They took one of their rescue lines and climbed down the bank to the creek, which was raging after heavy rains had pummeled the region the week before. There was a chance the vehicle could head downstream or shift suddenly.

Garrett and Jack knew Cheryl could easily get hypothermia in the frigid water. They moved carefully and rapidly to rescue her and her dog from the vehicle.

Garrett says he was aware he could get swept under the vehicle.

Cheryl Patterson’s Kia minivan rolled into Camas Creek. Photo by Steven Mitchell/Blue Mountain Eagle

The lineworkers lassoed the minivan and held it fast while Cheryl climbed onto the top of the vehicle The men helped her down into the water and safely across to the creek’s edge. She was shaken and worried about getting swept down the creek.

“Luckily, we carry all sorts of extra gear for all occasions when we’re on the job,” Garrett says. “We never know how the weather is going to be.”

By then, members of the Ukiah volunteer fire department had arrived on scene. They wrapped Cheryl in a blanket, and she and the dog were taken to safety.

Garrett says Columbia Power Co-op has a community-oriented outlook.

“We kind of just look out for everybody out here because we’re such a small co-op,” he says. “We try to take care of the community, and when we see somebody that needs help, we just try to help them out.”

Garrett left, and Jack received the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Life Saving Award for their courageous actions June 20. Photo courtesy of Columbia Power Cooperative

General Manager Lisa Atkin is proud of the line crew’s work ethic.

“Columbia Power Cooperative is so fortunate to have such dedicated and skilled linemen who live daily by the core principles of a cooperative both in their professional and personal lives,” she says. “Garret and Jack demonstrated genuine concern for their community through their heroic actions in this river rescue. I’m proud of them and truly appreciate the incredible value they bring to our team every day. It’s an impressive and humbling situation all at the same time.”

In October, Garrett and Jack’s courageous actions were recognized by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) when they received one of the IBEW’s highest honors: the Life Saving Award.

The Life Saving Award is presented by the international union to any member who, by direct personal involvement, saves the life of a fellow human being. Since the creation of this award five years ago, it has been bestowed to 149 lineworkers.