LARIMER COUNTY - Many residents in Drake were stranded for days when the swollen Big Thompson River tore through their town, taking homes, roads and surrounding the town with water.
Neighbors, many of whom were on the verge of being washed away, rescued each other.
Jason Breeding said because his home was at the top of the mountain he was able to provide shelter to several of his neighbors. Two of them needed oxygen.
"Carolyn requires oxygen. She won't live without it in no real length of time. Leroy gave his entire supply to her, and he was just living without, which largely left him incapacitated," Breeding said. "We didn't have electricity, so we thought she was going to expire."
The next morning, neighbors were surprised that both Carolyn and Leroy made it through the night, but they knew time was running out. One neighbor climbed on top of the CDOT building and spray painted "Need O2, Meds, 24 People," while another neighbor tried to flag down helicopters flying above.
"I had made a makeshift flag out of an orange trash bag and a stick, and I was waiving it out here on this pile of rocks to get some attention," Dallas Maurer said.
What the neighbors did worked. A Century Link helicopter saw the signs and flew down into the canyon.
The aircraft managed to land on a small patch of gravel that was surrounded by water. A neighbor approached the pilot, explained the situation and the crew inside acted instantly.
"Pretty soon all the doors opened up. The crew members hopped out and they said bring those people on," Maurer said.
Carolyn and Leroy made it on to the helicopter and were flown to a nearby hangar where ambulances were waiting for them. Their lives were saved that day and crews managed to rescue another 15 people and 10 pets. If it wasn't for neighbors and strangers jumping into action and trying to help each other, many residents say the outcome that day would have been much different.
The Larimer County Sheriff's Department says Drake residents were able to start hiking into town last week. CDOT says it's likely residents won't be able to drive back to town until Dec. 1.
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