By PAUL GOTTLIEB
Peninsula Daily News
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — A 72-year-old Poulsbo man who fell into a frigid creek at popular Rialto Beach on Christmas Day was treated for hypothermia at Forks Community Hospital and released Christmas night.
Fred Springsteel’s five-hour ordeal began when he and a female companion were walking along the south side of Ellen Creek at Rialto Beach at about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, Olympic National Park spokeswoman Rainey McKenna said Wednesday.
That’s when Springsteel slipped and fell into the water.
He became submerged before swimming to the north side of the creek.
“He went underwater completely,” McKenna said.
Once out of the creek, Springsteel could not cross back to the south side, McKenna said.
A person walking along the beach called 9-1-1 at 3:07 p.m. to report the incident to emergency dispatchers.
Responding were between seven and nine emergency personnel, including staff from the LaPush Police Department, Olympic National Park, the Coast Guard and the West End detachment of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
The first unit arrived at 3:30 p.m.
“Responders from LaPush and Forks were able to successfully and safely cross him back over” Ellen Creek, McKenna said.
“They walked him across and carried him.”
Emergency personnel then carried Springsteel on a litter for about a mile to the Rialto Beach parking lot.
That’s where Springsteel was picked up by a Forks Community Hospital ambulance at 5 p.m., McKenna said.
Springsteel was released from the hospital at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday — just in time for Christmas dinner.
Springsteel, a retired professor at University of Missouri, is a frequent letter-writer to the Herald and is active in several local organizations — among them the League of Women Voters, Friends of the Poulsbo Library and the North Kitsap Eagles. He ran for Poulsbo City Council in 2011.