Paddleboarder who drowned in Rampart Reservoir ID’d as Space Force airman

Senior Airman Ricky Teague drowned at Rampart Reservoir on Sept. 5, 2021.  He had served in the...
Senior Airman Ricky Teague drowned at Rampart Reservoir on Sept. 5, 2021. He had served in the Air Force since 2018.(Colorado Parks and Wildlife/Schriever Space Force Base)
Published: Sep. 5, 2021 at 3:31 PM MDT|Updated: Sep. 9, 2021 at 10:45 AM MDT
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WOODLAND PARK, Colo. (KKTV) - A senior airman from Schriever Space Force Base has been identified as the victim who drowned in Rampart Reservoir over the weekend.

Ricky Teagle was paddleboarding on Sunday when he went underwater and never reemerged. After more than three days of searching, his body was recovered from the water Wednesday morning.

“Ricky was selected as both the Peterson-Schriever Garrison Honor Guardsman and Ceremonial Guardsman of the Year for 2020, and Airman of the Quarter twice at the squadron level,” said Lt. Col. Brendon Herbeck, 22nd SOPS commander. “His incredible professionalism, fortitude, and excellence will be missed among the squadron.”

Teagle joined the Air Force in September 2018 and worked as a defensive space control operator for the Satellite Control Network with the 22nd Space Operations Squadron, part of Space Delta 6 headquartered at Schriever Space Force Base.

The base says grief counselors will be on hand to help Teagle’s friends and colleagues. A memorial service is being planned by the squadron.

Nine-one-one calls began coming in just before 3 p.m. Sunday.

“Initial reports were that the individual is paddleboarding and he went under the water, and multiple witnesses from the shores reported he did not come back out of the water,” said Lt. Joey Buttenwieser with the Colorado Springs Fire Department.

Northeast Teller County firefighters and Ute Pass Regional Health paramedics were first on scene, followed by CSFD, the U.S. Forest Service, El Paso County Search and Rescue, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado Parks and Wildlife Marine Evidence Recovery Team. Three dogs were also brought in.

“The dogs are specially trained in water rescues, so they can potentially pick up a scent from the shoreline,” Buttenwieser told 11 News.

Crews initially went into rescue mode, and the chilly water temperature bought them a little extra time.

“Because this lake is so cold -- it’s about 38 to 40 degrees -- the initial event, we are going to treat it like a rescue in that [with] cold water submersion, there could still be potential for a recovery of a victim, but after a certain amount of time -- plus an hour, hour and a half -- then it becomes a recovery operation,” Buttenwieser said.

The depth and high altitude of the reservoir presented extra obstacles for the dive team Sunday, Buttenweiser said. The reservoir sits at 9,000 feet.

“One of the big difficulties with this reservoir is the depth of it, can be up to 180 feet, which is past capacity of divers at this altitude. ... We have to also take the safety of our rescuers into consideration, especially when we’re talking about diving depths at this altitude. It becomes very specialized, so that it doesn’t injure the divers going down.”

Sonars and drones were used to help search areas divers couldn’t reach, though even those were met with hurdles.

“We had some wind on the shoreline that was prohibiting the search drones to go up in the air, and sometimes those can be of value when we’re searching shorelines,” Buttenwieser said.

As the hours ticked on, the rescue became what crews hoped it wouldn’t be, a recovery. Crews returned to the reservoir Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office announced the body was located in about 140 feet of water at about 8:30 that morning.

Crews used a new underwater drone to help find Teagle.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to use it on a body recovery and it worked very well. It was a very expensive piece of equipment too, but it increases the safety of our team for things like that where we it’s either too deep or too difficult to look around underwater,” said Lieutenant Jon Messersmith, Heavy Rescue with the Colorado Springs Fire Department.

Staff with Colorado Parks and Wildlife are emphasizing the importance of life jackets while out on the water.

“In Colorado on a paddlecraft you do have to have a life jacket on board. You don’t have to wear it, but we strongly encourage people to wear it. Especially if you can’t swim or if there’s some of those other circumstances like weather. And kids 12 and younger have to wear a life jacket even on a paddlecraft,” said Joe Stadterman, Park Manager at Lake Pueblo State Park.

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