Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Paramedics move Dean Ririe, 52, from an ambulance to a waiting Life Flight helicopter. Authorities say Ririe was fishing Sunday evening when his foot slipped on a rock and wedged underneath a giant boulder near Tanner's Flats.

Calling the man "extraordinarily lucky" to be alive, Salt Lake County Search and Rescue crews pulled a man out of a cold mountain creek Monday who had been pinned under a large boulder for more than 16 hours.

Dean Ririe, 52, was fishing in Little Cottonwood Creek Sunday about 6:30 p.m. just off the Tanner's Flat campground area when his foot slipped on a rock and wedged underneath a giant boulder.

One rescuer described the boulder as being "about the size of a Mini Cooper."

Despite his constant cries for help, no one heard Ririe, who was now trapped in the thigh-deep water in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

About 3 a.m. Monday, Ririe's wife drove around trying to find her husband, said Ririe's mother-in-law, Phyllis Bowling. When she couldn't find him, she called the sheriff's office about 9:30 a.m.

About that same time, Alex Malin who was camping with his father and siblings in Tanner's Flat, was collecting firewood away from his campsite when he heard Ririe's calls for help.

"He said he had been there all night. He said his foot had slipped and he was pinned under a giant boulder. He was shivering. His voice was scratchy because he was yelling for a long time," Malin, 11, said.

Alex ran off to find his father, Brian Malin.

"He came running to me saying, 'Hey dad, there's a guy yelling for help in the river,'" Brian Malin said.

Initially, Malin thought Ririe had just barely fallen into the chilly water but then he noticed how bad Ririe was shivering and how his lips had begun to turn blue, he said.

"He said he had done everything he could to get the rock off," Malin said.

Alex stayed with Ririe to keep him company while Brian went to tell the camp host what had happened. The host then contacted the sheriff's office. Deputies were already on their way up the canyon for what they thought was a missing person case and then quickly learned it was a full rescue.

Once they evaluated the situation, more than 20 men and women from search and rescue, the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office and Unified Fire Authority responded.

"This was one of the biggest responses of resources I've ever been a part of," said search and rescue member Mike Brehm. He said getting Ririe out was a very labor intensive effort and wouldn't have been possible without some very specialized equipment by UFA.

Rescuers, each wearing safety harnesses, got into the approximately 55-degree water next to Ririe and at first tried cutting his boot off but realized his foot was still not going to move. Then they set up several pads under the boulder and pumped them with air to raise or shift the boulder, which was estimated to weigh about 5 tons.

After finally getting the boulder to move, rescuers loaded Ririe onto a backboard and carried him out to a waiting medical helicopter. He was freed about 11:15 a.m.

Ririe was suffering from "severe hypothermia" and complained of soreness in his ankle and knee, but otherwise seemed to be OK, said Sheriff's Lt. Brent Atkinson.

Once rescue crews were on the scene, it took them about 90 minutes to free Ririe.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com