A lifesaving team

SunUte staff members; Lifeguard Roman Vasquez, Aquatics Coordinator Tim Velasquez, Fitness Trainer Sean Etsitty, Fitness Director Abel Velasquez, Recreation Specialist Amanda Dodge, Recreation Coordinator Kelsey Frost, Recreation Manager Virgil Morgan, Lifeguard Jesse Sanchez, Front Desk attendant Margaret Manzanares, and Community Center Director Robin Duffy-Wirth pose for a photo with their certificates from Southern Ute Chairman Christine Sage.
SunUte lifeguard Jesse Sanchez stands with others from the community center who were recognized and honored by the Southern Ute Tribal Council on Tuesday, Jan. 29 with lifesaving award certificates.
Southern Ute Executive Officer Esther Rima presents lifeguard Roman Vasquez with his lifesaving award certificate on Tuesday, Jan. 29 in the pool area of the SunUte Community Center.
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum


            Staff members from the SunUte Community Center were recognized and honored on Tuesday, Jan. 24 with lifesaving award certificates from the Southern Ute Tribal Council.

What seemed like a routine night of duty quickly turned south and put two lifeguards and their years of training to the test, Wednesday, Jan. 23. When the lifeguards recognized that there was an individual experiencing a medical crisis in the pool they acted upon instinct and their experience.

Southern Ute Tribal member and lifeguard, Jesse Sanchez was the first to the rescue, with her background of child education and lifeguard training, she knew just what to do. Keeping the young person’s head above water while fellow lifeguard, Roman Vasquez rushed to help Sanchez and help lift the person out of the water.

Within minutes, Margaret Manzanares at the front desk was calling 911 and recreation manager, Virgil Morgan and recreation coordinator checked in on the situation and stayed with the responding team.

Lifeguards Sanchez and Vasquez kept the incident under control until first responders from the Los Pinos Fire Department arrived. “They did more than monitoring, they really took care of the person,” SunUte Community Center Director Robin Duffy-Wirth stated. “Doing drills is one thing, but responding to an actual emergency is something entirely different,” Lifeguard Vasquez shared.

Praise from the Los Pinos Fire Department still rings in the ears of all those who helped, “I remember one of the firefighters telling me ‘you just saved a life!’ and I could still feel the adrenaline the next morning,” Lifeguard Vasquez stated.

SunUte aquatics staff are required to complete monthly drills that are put together and run by Aquatics Coordinator Tim Velasquez. “This ensures they practice correct technique and keep current with their knowledge,” Duffy-Wirth explained.

Just days later, the lifeguards returned to the pool with a new-found appreciation for the job. “I feel awesome being back—and it’s nice knowing the persons doing okay,” Vasquez stated. “The training is amazing, it was like everything just kicked in.”

In addition to the required aquatics training, the SunUte staff participates in four hours of Emergency Action Planning, team building, as well as practicing drill runs.

Reflecting on the crisis, debriefing was offered for everyone involved. “They went through an emotional experience and they did it as a team—they took care of each other afterward,” Duffy-Wirth stated.

“Since we opened SunUte, we believe this [pool crisis] has occurred about five times,” said Duffy-Wirth. “Because of their attention to detail and their awareness — a life was saved.”




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