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THORNTON CITY WORKERS RESCUE TWO – MOTHER, SON PULLED THROUGH 40-FOOT PIPE BY SWOLLEN WATERS

THORNTON CITY WORKERS RESCUE TWO – MOTHER, SON PULLED THROUGH 40-FOOT PIPE BY SWOLLEN WATERS

Rocky Mountain News (CO) – Friday, July 30, 2004
Author/Byline: Clayton Woullard , Rocky Mountain News
Edition: Final
Section: News
Page: 5A
Kathy Worthington and her 8-year-old son hurtled through a water pipe Wednesday – only they weren’t at a water park, and it definitely wasn’t for fun.

They were rushing toward danger.

On Thursday, Worthington, 35, of Thornton, credited two city employees for saving her and her son, Tony Salazar, after they were sucked through a 40-foot pipe and were holding onto a rock to keep from being pulled under nearly 6-foot-deep water.

“They’re wonderful human beings,” Worthington said of Marc Storm and Steve Cunningham, who pulled the the two from the raging waters. “People think that people are so bad . . . and they’re proof that there is good people.”

Worthington and her son had thrown a ball for their 2-year-old golden retriever, Rylei, into a detention pool swollen by heavy rains near the intersection of 122nd and 123rd avenues Wednesday evening.

When the dog swam too close to the pipe and was sucked in by the powerful currents, Worthington jumped in after him and was captured by the strong currents, too.

That was when Tony jumped in, shot through the tube and slammed into his mother, who was clinging to a rock on the other side where Rylei was waiting as well.

“I just felt him across my back and I knew it was him,” Worthington said.

Worthington’s nephew, Justin Kitzman, 14, saw his aunt and cousin go into the water and ran for help.

Storm and Cunningham hurried over and worked together to first pull Tony to safety, then Worthington and the dog.

“There just aren’t words when you see people coming without any fear for their lives,” Worthington said, “and their only intent is to save your life.”

Worthington suffered a broken foot and Tony received a cut on the back of his head.

Storm and Cunningham said they don’t feel like heroes and are just grateful they could be there to help.

“I knew we could do it,” said Cunningham, who has been a street operations worker for Thornton for five years. “We had to make an attempt. We couldn’t let them stay in there.”

Storm, who has been a street operations worker for the city for 11 years, said he was amazed the mother and her son managed to make it through the tube and not get washed away.

“If (Worthington) wasn’t there to catch the boy like that, it could’ve been a lot more serious,” he said.

Mason Staub, street operations manager for the city, said the two men have been patted on the back by their co-workers and that some City Council members have discussed a distinguished service award.

“They really have the mind-set of wanting to help people,” Staub said. “This is just kind of an outstanding example of their normal approach to customer service.”

Staub said the waters pushed the mother and her boy at a constant force of around 600 pounds.

“The message should be that . . . when there’s water in it (the detention pool), this can be a dangerous place,” Staub said.

Worthington is grateful she survived a trip Storm said “had to be something better than Elitch’s.”

“I’m just happy to be alive,” Worthington said.

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