Editorial: Thanks to volunteers in a tough job

By Staci Matlock
editor@taosnews.com
Posted 5/2/19

Last week, a team recovered the body of a man from the Río Grande.The recovery team - members of Taos Search and Rescue, Bureau of Land Management and a specialized team from the Taos County …

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Editorial: Thanks to volunteers in a tough job

Posted

Last week, a team recovered the body of a man from the Río Grande.

The recovery team - members of Taos Search and Rescue, Bureau of Land Management and a specialized team from the Taos County Sheriff's Office - are no strangers to this kind of grim work. At least once a year a team makes the dangerous trek into the Río Grande Gorge to retrieve the remains of someone who has died in the river.

On rare occasions, their death is an accident, a kayaker or rafter is sometimes swept into the water. But most often the remains are those of people who have taken their own life. While not officially confirmed by a medical examiner yet, it is possible the remains are those of a man whose vehicle was found in early April at the Gorge Bridge parking lot.

Deaths at the bridge are a tragedy.

As you'll read this week in our main story, the ripple effects reach far beyond their circle of devastated friends and families, beginning with the women and men who risk their own lives to retrieve the bodies.

It is dangerous, technical work.

Those who do it for local Search and Rescue teams do it as volunteers. Along with the sheriff's team and local firefighters, they train for these missions, learning the skills for climbing and rafting that such missions in the gorge demand. They are highly proficient at rescues and recoveries. But it is still dangerous.

Just imagine how that could rattle a person. These teams must keep their emotions in check.

As deftly, gently and respectfully as they can, they go about their work of retrieving the remains of a person who has died in our community. Certainly, these recoveries stay with them in their memories long after the mission is over. They, like anyone who deals with tragedy and death on a regular basis, have their own internal turmoil to address when missions are over.

It takes a special breed of person to do this hard, risky work. They deserve thanks from the community for all they do, especially when they aren't paid to do it.

And they deserve support to keep training and doing the important work.

Taos Search and Rescue volunteers have been rescuing people and recovering bodies for more than three decades. Their members include a skilled K9 unit, a repelling team and drone operators, all of which are needed in the dangerous terrain of Northern New Mexico. Taos is lucky to have them.

As the group notes on its website: "Our mission is only possible through the generosity of our community. We are not funded by state or federal government and do not charge for search and rescue." Donate to help this team at sar-taos.org.

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