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Rescuers work to free Dean Ririe, whose foot was trapped under a giant boulder in Little Cottonwood Creek. Ririe was called "extraordinarily lucky" to have survived.

Calling him "extraordinarily lucky" to be alive, Salt Lake County Search and Rescue crews pulled a man out of a cold mountain creek Monday after his foot 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 rock as being "about the size of a Mini Cooper."

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

About 3 a.m. Monday, Ririe's wife began a search for her husband in her car, said Ririe's mother-in-law, Phyllis Bowling.

When she couldn't find him, she called the sheriff's office.

About that same time — 9:30 a.m. — 11-year-old 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," Alex said.

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

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

Alex stayed with Ririe to keep him company while his father went to tell the camp host what had happened. The host contacted the sheriff's office.

Deputies were already on their way up the canyon for what they thought was a missing person case. They 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 very labor-intensive and wouldn't have been possible without some very specialized equipment from UFA.

Rescuers, each wearing a safety harness, 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., after about 90 minutes of work by rescue crews.

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.


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