News Jun 27, 2024

Jacobs Teams’ Swift Response, Safety-first Approach Saves a Life

Our team in Farmington, New Mexico, rescued a drowning man on Lake Farmington

June 21st marked the one-year anniversary of our Farmington, New Mexico, team members rescuing a drowning citizen in Lake Farmington while performing maintenance procedures. Lake Farmington is a critical drinking water resources to this High Desert community.

A routine day turned not so routine for Farmington, New Mexico, team members as they embarked on semi-annual maintenance procedures at the lake tower on Lake Farmington and ended it with saving a life. 

On June 21, 2023, the sun was shining, and a small team of Farmington professionals gathered for their tailgate safety meeting to identify and manage all hazards and risks associated with their tasks that day. Little did they know, this day would turn into a remarkable testament to their unwavering commitment to safety and their swift, life-saving response.

The dedicated team, consisting of Instrumentation and Controls Technician Ramon Chacon, Maintenance Supervisor Dylan Harraden, Mechanic Lance Lee, Lead Mechanic Isaac Mora and Operator Shawn Woodfill, was well-prepared and focused on safely executing maintenance activities on the lake. Safety discussions covered not just their task scope but also boating safety, emphasizing the importance of situational awareness.

“We had two new hires, and we were showing them the ins and outs of our maintenance procedures at the lake tower,” recalls Isaac. 

After meticulous planning and adherence to safety protocols, the crew boarded the pontoon boat at 9:45 a.m. to reach the lake tower, located in the middle of the lake. By 10:30 a.m., the team successfully completed their tasks and headed back to the boat ramp to load the boat on the trailer.

However, the day took an unexpected turn when kayakers on the lake approached the team during their post-job meeting and informed them a small sailboat capsized. The teams’ backs were to the lake, so they did not see the capsized vessel. The lake only allows non-motorized watercraft; so, our team owned the only boat that could reach sailor in distress fast enough to assess the situation, as the boat was about 200-300 yards offshore. 

“Four people jumped on the boat, and they were in the water within two to three minutes,” says Lance. 

“Without hesitation we all jumped on the boat,” Ramon adds. “Once we launched, we immediately crafted our safety plan and determined who was going to throw the lifebuoy ring.” 

Isaac, Shawn and Ramon reached the capsized sailboat within minutes but were concerned. “As we approached the boat, one thing that stood out was that we didn’t see any splashing or ripples, so we were preparing for the worst but hoping for the best,” says Isaac. 

When they reached the sailboat, they wasted no time, throwing the lifebuoy ring to a visibly struggling man. With coordinated efforts, Shawn and Isaac hoisted the tired and helpless – but alive – survivor onboard. He did not require immediate medical attention but was visibly exhausted and relieved to see our team. 

“You never train for this, but we didn’t hesitate. Everyone was unselfish, and we thought about the man in the lake the whole time,” says Ramon.

The team brought the man to shore and towed the capsized vessel to the dock, staying on-site to observe him and displaying the team's unwavering commitment to safety even after the emergency passed.

“The team's ability to transition seamlessly from their maintenance work to a rescue mission was a testament to their training and dedication to safety,” says Project Director Philip Johnson. 

It's clear the Jacobs team's commitment to safety extends beyond their regular duties. They are now discussing the creation of a new standard operating procedure (SOP) to cover boat rescues so that they are even better prepared for future potential emergencies.

“Our operators are trained to be operators; they’re not trained to be rescuers,” comments Area Health and Safety Manager Ruben Aranda. “I’m proud to be associated with them.”

In the end, this extraordinary event on what began as a routine workday showcased the remarkable teamwork, dedication to safety and swift response by our team. Their actions not only saved a life but also exemplified the ethos of safety-first that runs deep within our organization. This team, and their actions, are a source of pride for Jacobs and our Operations Management and Facilities Services (OMFS) team, setting a shining example for all.

Most recently, our Farmington team was recognized for their heroics with the annual Jacobs CEO BeyondZero Leadership Award, which formally recognizes and celebrates teams and individuals who lead the way with excellence at Jacobs. With an unwavering commitment to doing things right, challenging the accepted, aiming higher and living inclusion – they set the bar for positively impacting our clients, people and communities around the world.

Jacobs has provided operations and maintenance (O&M) services to the City of Farmington since 1999 and recently earned a five-year contract renewal. Recent accolades recognizing Jacobs' dedication to technology, sustainability and safety include the Water Environment Federation's Utility of the Future Today award for Beneficial Biosolids Reuse and the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association's safety award.