Suicide by freezing prevented by CU student's roommate, rescue crew at Chautauqua

As we've reported, yesterday's morning low of -15 degrees Fahrenheit was one of the ten coldest temperatures ever recorded in Denver, and the night before was nearly that cold -- a deep, deep chill that appears to have prompted a reportedly suicidal CU-Boulder student to head to Chautauqua with the apparent intention of freezing to death.

He might have succeeded were it not for his concerned roommate and a rescue squad that braved the conditions and found him in time. Details below.

On Wednesday night, December 4, according to the Boulder County Sheriffs Office, the roommate of the nineteen-year-old student had informed the CU Police Department about the situation, as well as launching a frantic effort to find him. And things looked grim after the roommate found a backpack containing belongings of the student at Chautauqua Park's Bluebell shelter.

At around 11 p.m. , the BCSO, along with personnel from the CUPD and Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks mounted a search, and by the time they found the student, he was in bad shape; he's described as having been "severely hypothermic, semi-responsive and severely frostbitten."

Here's a photo from the scene provided by the BCSO:

Once the student was located, folks from Rocky Mountain Rescue and American Medical Response jumped into action, keeping him as warm as possible until he could be evacuated to Boulder Community Hospital.

At this point, no information about the student's condition has been made available, but there seems little doubt he would have died on Chautauqua without help. The BCSO warns against people attempting a rescue like this one, particularly given the extreme conditions -- but an office spokesman also acknowledges that the "roommates' courageous efforts led to a successful suicide intervention and likely saved their roommate's life."

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our News archive circa January 2011: "Boulder dogs are on thin ice: Firefighters rescue three pooches in two days."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts