By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
An off-duty correctional officer’s fishing trip at Folsom Lake ended up turning into a rescue operation.
After a day of boating and fishing, Folsom State Prison Correctional Officer Chris Sanders and his friend decided to head back to shore. The wind was picking up, the sun was setting and the temperature was dropping. As they made their way to the boat ramp, they spotted what they thought was an abandoned boat on a small island in the lake.
Officer Sanders said the decision to go out on the lake that particular day wasn’t planned. “It was a last-minute kind of thing,” he said.
“As they approached the boat, they saw an elderly man partially lying in the water. They immediately called 911 and pulled the man out of the water,” according to a CDCR report on the incident.
The victim’s boat motor had failed, leaving the boat to the mercy of the wind and current, allowing it to end up on a small island. While trying to get out of the boat, the elderly man tripped and fell. His leg had gotten caught between the boat’s closed canvas top and the transom. When the officer found him, the man was lying in the water between the boat and the small island’s shore, his leg stuck in the boat.
“At first, I thought he was dead, floating in the water,” the officer recalls.
“He was pale and going into hypothermia,” the report states. “Officer Sanders quickly freed the man and started first aid measures for a lacerated arm and hypothermia.”
“We helped him remove his clothes and put on dry clothes,” said Officer Sanders. “We helped him get back into the boat also. He was weak and very cold. We had to lift him by his shoulders. He got in the boat and called his wife. I got my boat around to try to tow his. My friend stood on the shore line and rocked the (stranded) boat to get it off the rocks. Then we towed it all the way back.”
Sanders said it was dark by the time they returned to shore, probably close to 9:30 at night. As they approached the shore, they saw the man’s family waiting. A state park ranger arrived a short time later.
“The man was transported to the hospital for treatment of hypothermia, an injured ankle and a lacerated arm. Following the incident, the man had a mild heart attack caused by the stress. He has since completely recovered from his injuries,” according to the report. The incident happened in June 2016.
“His family was really concerned about him. They kept thanking us and trying to give us money but we declined. They did get our contact information. Later they let us know how he was doing and that he was doing better,” Officer Sanders said.
For Sanders, who started at CDCR in February 2015, working in a prison is in his blood – both of his parents are retired correctional officers. His father David retired in 2009 after 24 years and his mother Karen retired in 2016 after 29 years.