Body Found in Upper Rio Grande ID’d as Missing Louisiana Woman

The remains of a 64-year old Louisiana woman who drowned in Pole Creek on the upper Rio Grande River last month were discovered by a fisherman on Thursday afternoon, July 25.
Search efforts had continued since Thursday evening, June 27, when Tessie Strickland disappeared after the jeep driven by her husband, Tommy Strickland, became mired in rushing water on Pole Creek on Stony Pass en route on U.S. F.S. Road 520 to Silverton.
The Louisiana couple, the sole passengers in the jeep, were staying in Silverton and crossed Pole Creek earlier on June 27 on their way to Creede. Water in the creek had increased considerably later in the day on their return from Creede back to Silverton.
The jeep stalled in the water and was carried 10’ downstream shortly after 7 p.m. With water rushing on both sides of the vehicle and partially submerging the hood, the Stricklands made the decision to jump ashore.
Mrs. Strickland fell partially into the rushing stream and her husband, also in the ice cold water, was attempting to push her up onto the stream bank when he was submerged and carried an estimated 40’ downstream. On his return, his wife was nowhere to be found.
Unsuccessful search efforts were immediately commenced, although it was not until last Thursday afternoon that human remains were discovered by a Texas adolescent who was fishing the upper Rio Grande River with his father.
Due to his age, Hinsdale County Sheriff’s Dept. is not releasing the fisherman’s name.
After discovery of the body, which was washed against vegetation in the stream, an initial report was made to Rio Grande National Forest and then conveyed to Hinsdale County Sheriff’s Office.
Hinsdale County Coroner Jerry Gray, aided by Hinsdale County Undersheriff Chris Kambish and Deputies Jordan Kaminsi and Charles Ferris, responded to the scene at approximately 6:25 p.m. Thursday.
The location of the body, in water against willows, was approximately 100 yards from the Stony Pass road, approximately four miles downstream from the location where Mrs. Strickland initially disappeared, and five miles above Rio Grande Reservoir.
After recovery, the body was transported to Montrose Memorial Hospital where Dr. Benziger conducted an autopsy. Dental records were used to positively confirm Mrs. Strickland’s identity on Tuesday afternoon, July 30.
Coroner Gray states that Mrs. Strickland’s death has been ruled accidental as the result of drowning. The remains have been released to Crippin Funeral Home in Montrose who are in contact with a funeral home in Louisiana.
In advance of the discovery of the body last week and positive identification this week, search efforts for the woman had continued but were hampered by swift, higher than usual water conditions in both Pole Creek and the upper Rio Grande.
The Strickland jeep remained mired in Pole Creek at the Stony Pass crossing until July 9 when a wrecker service from Silverton successfully retrieved the vehicle. The jeep was taken back over Stony Pass to Silverton, according to Sheriff Justin Casey, and returned to the family.
Efforts to locate Mrs. Strickland involved by multiple searches by volunteers from Hinsdale County Search & Rescue. The confluence of Pole Creek with the upper Rio Grande was the focus on July 15 of an unsuccessful search in which a search & rescue member from Larimer County, Colorado, was brought in with a dog specifically trained to locate people who have disappeared in water.