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Oklahoma Game Warden details rescue of man from vortex near dam

Delaware Co. Oklahoma Game Warden Riley Willman
Delaware Co. Oklahoma Game Warden Riley Willman(Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation)
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 5:13 PM CDT
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COLCORD, Okla. (WIBW) - An Oklahoma Game Warden has detailed the heroic rescue of a man who had been caught in a deadly vortex near a dam in northeastern Oklahoma after he jumped in to save him.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation says Riley Willman, a native of Owasso, Okla., has served as Game Warden in Delaware Co. for nearly three years.

On May 11, ODWC said Willman was on his way to another location when, by chance, he pulled off the highway to check angler compliance at the recreation area near Flint Creek Water Park in northeast Oklahoma. When he approached the creek, he said he heard people yelling from the opposite side of the bank.

“I heard them screaming, ‘Help, police, call 911! Someone’s drowning!’,” Willman detailed. “And I saw that they were pointing to this low-water dam.”

ODWC noted that the creek had been full and was quickly flowing due to heavy rain the previous day.

Willman said that is when he jumped into the creek and made his way into the tailwaters swirling below the dam. Another man who had also been in the water reported that his best friend had jumped into the water below and had been sucked under by the vortex. He said the man had been underwater for several minutes.

The Wildlife Conservation said Willman was able to swim to the edge of the vortex, but could not find the victim right away.

“Luckily, he popped up at the right time where I could grab him,” Willman said.

By the time the victim had been pulled back to the bank, ODWC said the man had blue lips and no pulse. Willman began CPR and after about 30 seconds was able to feel a weak pulse return. He rolled the man on his side to attempt to expel the water, however, the pulse faded again.

Willman said he continued CPR for five or six rounds until finally, the man’s pulse returned and became stronger.

ODWC emergency medical personnel finally arrived and took the man to a hospital in Siloam Springs, Ark., where he was discharged the following day.

The Wildlife Conservation said it wants to thank Willman for his actions even though he brushed aside the hero label in this situation. It said Game Wardens are public servants sworn to protect wildlife and the public’s interest in the outdoors and Willman showed just that.

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