Monday marked the 12th day since a Louisiana woman was swept away in a high-mountain stream outside Silverton. Search and rescue officials said Monday morning the woman remains missing.
Tessie Strickland, 64, and her husband, Tommy, were traveling on June 27 from Creede to Silverton on a route mostly used by off-road vehicles when the couple’s Jeep lost power while crossing Pole Creek, a tributary of the Rio Grande that was flowing higher than normal.
As the Jeep was being taken downstream and starting to fill with water, the couple climbed onto the roof of the vehicle and tried to swim to the bank, Tommy Strickland later told authorities.
Tommy Strickland was able to make it to shore. He told authorities he was trying to help his wife up the bank when she was swept under the icy water. She was then taken downstream and disappeared, and has not been seen since.
The search, which has used both foot and aerial surveys, is focused on an 8-mile stretch from where the Jeep stalled in Pole Creek, down to the confluence with the Rio Grande, and onto where the Rio Grande is dammed at the Rio Grande Reservoir.
While the search has so far been unsuccessful, emergency personnel hope that with Pole Creek starting to recede, that might change.
“We are currently scheduling more search resources to continue the efforts to locate Mrs. Strickland,” Hinsdale County Sheriff Justin Casey said in a prepared statement.
The incident has highlighted the dangers of traveling in the high country after a winter of heavy snowpack.
Stony Pass is a popular high-alpine route that requires crossing Pole Creek. The couple left from Silverton to Creede in the morning and crossed the creek when the water level was low. When they returned later in the day to get back to Silverton, the creek had risen from the day’s snowmelt.
Tommy Strickland was able to find passersby who took him to Silverton where he alerted authorities around 8:30 p.m., which immediately set off search and rescue operations.
The couple are from Kentwood, Louisiana, a small town about a 1½-hour drive north of New Orleans. There, Tommy Strickland is chief for the St. Helena 6th Ward Volunteer Fire Department.
Brad Graves, a fire chief with the St. Helena Fire Department, said in a previous interview the couple frequently take Jeep trips around the country.