Chelsey Russell: Colorado Mom Dies Saving 2-Year-Son From Drowning In Utah Lake

Chelsey Russell, 33, was enjoying a boat trip with her family across Lake Powell in Utah when tragedy struck.

“We’d just had the most incredible week, our little family,” Chelsey’s mother, Trisha Hood, told The Denver Post on Friday. “It is unfathomable how this happened.”

Russell, an associate at a law firm in Denver, had taken her two children, aged 5 and 2, to southern Utah for a family trip, where she was to be joined by her mother and brother, Cayman Hood. Chelsey’s father, a noted optometrist, had died three years ago in 2013 and this was one of the first opportunities the family had since his death to reminiscence about him.

But after a long day at the lake, just when it was about time to reach the dock at the Halls Crossing Marina, Russell’s toddler son slipped off their houseboat and into the water. A skilled athlete, the Colorado mom did not take long to jump after him, hoping she would be able to rescue him.

For five agonizing minutes, Chelsey Russell managed to keep her toddler son above water, saving him from drowning. Her brother jumped behind her too, but realized that he was too far away from his sister, and went back to the houseboat to retrieve a motorboat the family had been towing. By the time Cayman Hood reached his sister, Chelsey, who had kept her son away from the water and on her chest all this while, was unconscious, reports CBS News.

“She was holding the baby out of the water the best that she could,” San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge said.

Chelsey and her toddler son were eventually hauled back to the shore, where the Colorado mom was administered CPR for more than a half hour by family members. But there was too much water already in Russell’s lungs and she was pronounced dead at the scene soon after.

The two-year-old son was flown by a helicopter to a hospital in Flagstaff, Arizona and his condition is now stable.

The unexpected death has left the family in shambles, while the younger ones have still not managed to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation, the family said. But others, who knew Chelsey well, said that the Colorado mom was an amazing woman, and the bravery she displayed in the face of overwhelming odds is a testament to her unyielding character.

“She was a better mom than any other mom I’ve ever known, including myself, and she would have done anything for her kids,” colleague Amy Seneshen said.

The law firm where Chelsey Russell worked, Welborn, Sullivan, Meck & Tooley, released the following statement, grieving the loss of a career woman who was equally dedicated to her family.

“Chelsey was an amazing mother, an exceptional legal talent, an extraordinary athlete, a loyal and generous friend, and left us all better for knowing her. She is sorely missed.”

Lake Powell [Image via G.Thomas/Wikipedia]
The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area makes it mandatory for boaters under the age of 12 to wear life jackets, but none of the family members in this case were wearing them, according to the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office. Teri Tucker, acting superintendent for the recreation area, expressed her anguish at the tragedy, but warned that families spending time in the area must follow the rules or else tragedies like the one which killed Chelsey Russell will keep happening.

“There are no words to convey the tragedy of losing a loved one like this. Our hearts are with the family and friends of the victims during this time of unexpected pain and loss.”

Over the last few decades, more than 120 fatalities are known to have taken place at the Lake Powell recreational area, reports the Daily Mail, and one can only imagine if the tragedy could have been avoided if Chelsey Russell’s kids were wearing life jackets while on the boating trip.

Nevertheless, Chelsey will always be remembered for her bravery and selflessness.

[Photo by iStock]

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