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Three rafters out for a leisurely expedition on the Rio Grande got more than they expected when the weather dramatically changed in the middle of their trip.
When the weather went from pleasant to freezing rain in a matter of hours, the youngest, a 10-year-old girl, apparently forgot to bring extra clothing and shoes, and that’s where their troubles began.
“It started to rain, then freeze, so we pulled the raft onto the bank, and made a lean-to to try and keep warm,” said Frank Quiales, 45.
Things got even more complicated when the other adult in the group, Chris McCury, 34, began to suffer from a bad knee and slight paralysis in one of his legs.
The rescue call came in around 1 p.m. Saturday.
Incident Command was set up at the Red Dot trailhead on Piedra Loop, with police and fire rescue units responding.
All three refused medical treatment, although McCury had to be flown out of White Rock Canyon by a Life Flight helicopter to Overlook Park because of his condition.
Though a little thirsty and tired, all three are expected to make a full recovery from their ordeal.
Quiales is from Colorado and McCury is from Rio Rancho. The girl said she was visiting from North Carolina.
McCury’s fiancee was reportedly at the scene to inquire about everyone’s status, but did not go on the rafting trip. She then left to join her fiance at Overlook Park.
Justin Grider, Deputy Chief and public information officer for the Los Alamos Fire Department, was glad to see that all three made it out of the canyon safely.
However, he also added that this should be a wake up call to all hikers and rafters looking to step outside their comfort zones to raft the river or take on the Red Dot Trail this summer.
“In the mountainous areas of Northern New Mexico, the weather can change at a moment’s notice,” he said. “Make sure you have extra water, extra clothes. Today, the weather started off sunny this morning, then cold weather and freezing showers set in, then we had a little snow. Then it went back to being sunny.”
He said other than the clothes and the shoes, the rafters did have a whistle and a cell phone, two things that helped much in their rescue. During the early hours of the rescue operation, the rafters used the whistle to help rescue crews pinpoint their location.
“Also, have a compass and GPS device if you can afford it,” Grider said. “You can help us a lot by being prepared and being able to tell us where you are at.”