National Wildlife Refuge System

Refuge Officer Makes Heroic Rescue

Federal Wildlife Officer Russell Haskett rescued two hunters from the frigid waters of the Snake River in Idaho.
Credit: USFWS

Federal Wildlife Officer Russell Haskett is a hero, but he won’t call himself that. He is understated when describing how he waded into Idaho’s frigid Snake River December 1 to  pull two duck hunters to safety.

“It was a calculated risk,” said the officer for the Southeast Idaho National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  “It was either (go in) or watch those two guys drown.”

Michael Jones and Norman Davis, both of Pocatello, ID, were clinging to their capsized canoe in the middle of the Snake River near Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge when Haskett heard a sheriff’s radio report of the incident.  High winds were holding the men and the canoe in place, despite the current, and they’d been in the freezing water 30 minutes.  Jones was unconscious. Davis couldn’t speak.

Haskett, the first law enforcement responder, knew the river in that area was a mix of rock shelves and deep holes.  He inched his way in until he was up to his neck and close enough to toss a safety line, pulling the men and the canoe until he could grab a man in each arm.  Haskett pulled them to shore about 75 yards away.

As soon as Haskett brought the victims to shore, he and their three hunting buddies put Jones and Davis in dry clothes and laid down around them to transfer their body heat while they waited for help.

Jones was transferred by helicopter to Portneuf  Medical Center after he started to go into cardiac arrest. Making a miraculous turnaround, Jones was conscious six hours later.  He was released from the hospital about 10 days later. Haskett visited him twice in the hospital and even returned to the rescue site to find Jones’ eyeglasses.  

Davis was treated and released the day the men were rescued.

Everyone is calling Haskett a hero. But the father of three says he is just thankful that he and the hunters are all okay.  Haskett joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2004; he was a fish and game officer for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe in Idaho for 13 years before that.

Last updated: December 20, 2012