Anonymous owners pay for horse to be air-lifted onto dry land

Posted: Updated:
By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
Gila River rescue By Alicia Barron Gila River rescue By Alicia Barron
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

BUCKEYE - Rescue efforts continued all through the weekend and into Monday to get a horse on to dry land after he was swept away along with two other horses and three riders.

The horse named Colorado was seen struggling to survive in the rushing waters of the Gila River on Friday afternoon. He managed to get on dry land but has been stuck on a sandbar since then.

The horse's owner and a group of volunteers are trying to figure out how to rescue the horse. They took food to Colorado but say he seems anxious to get out of the island.

"Mustangs are smart," says Colorado's owner Mark Eshenbaugh. He was one of the riders that had to be rescued after being swept away on the Gila River.

The three riders became stranded in the river while riding the horses near 222nd Avenue and Eagle Mountain Road in Buckeye south of the Valley.

The sheriff's office received a call about this incident at about 1 p.m. The riders thought it was a shallow wash and did not realize the water was about six-feet deep.

Three of four of the riders on the horses were swept away and dragged down Gila River. The fourth called 911 for help.

MCSO Rescue Specialist Roger Yensen says, "We train extensively for rescues just like that."

The individuals managed to stand in waist-high water, clinging onto tree branches while waiting to be rescued by a hovering helicopter.

All three individuals were rescued as well as one horse named Foxy. The third horse suffered a broken leg and had to be euthanized.

The operation to get Colorado back on land is ongoing. The owner is looking into possibly having a helicopter assist in the rescue. In the meantime, he says they might just have to wait it out until conditions are more favorable.