News Release 011

Ranger Charles Helton named January 2011 Employee of the Month by Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Volume 39-011 (For Immediate Release)
For more information: 573-751-1010

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, JAN. 27, 2011 --- Ranger Charles S. Helton, a park ranger with the department's Division of State Parks, has been named as the January 2011 Employee of the Month by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Helton was selected for his quick response in rescuing two children from fast-moving water.

On April 5, 2010, Helton was contacted by the Reynolds County Dispatch Center that a child was caught in the shut-ins at Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. Rapid water was preventing the 10-year-old boy from exiting where he had been playing. Helton advised the county that he was in the park and would provide more details when he arrived at the shut-ins.

Upon Helton's arrival, he was met by the mother of the child who explained that he was stranded on a large flat rock but unable to move because the water was too swift. Normal water flow during the summer swimming season is less than 20 cubic feet per second, but on this day the river was flowing at 93 cubic feet per second.

Helton made his way across the river and located the boy, who was with a friend, similarly stranded. Both were sitting in the middle of the fast-moving water on a rock that was just above the surface. He had them stay where they were as he formulated a plan. While waiting for fire and rescue to arrive, another park visitor approached Helton and told him that his daughter was playing in the pool just above the shut-ins when she got too close to the rapids and was taken downriver. The girl was okay but scared so Helton arranged for emergency personnel to join him checking on her as soon as the boys were rescued.

Reynolds County EMS arrived and threw a rope to Helton, who secured the stranded boys. Although the first boy was able to follow the rope across to safety, the second lost his footing and went under the water. Helton grabbed the boy but was pulled into the rushing water. Before being swept downstream himself, Helton pushed the boy to safety. Helton was able to exit the river downstream in calmer waters.

“This demonstrates the caliber of employee and law enforcement officer our agency has in Ranger Charles S. Helton,” said Capt. David Snyder, who nominated Helton for the award. Snyder is a supervisor in the ranger program's southern region. “In addition to that event, Ranger Helton's ongoing work and dedication to the safety of our park visitors is demonstrated in other search-and-rescue incidents, his patrol efforts and our outreach programs.”

State park rangers often put other people's safety before their own. In this instance, Helton's quick action averted what could have been a tragedy.

Helton began working for the department in December 2002 and resides in Belleview.

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Editor: Photos are available at http://www.dnr.mo.gov/newsrel/images/C-Helton1-11.jpg