Willis Hugh Purdy



Date of hire

1950-05-22 00:00


Sergeant Purdy had finished his shift when Greeley dispatchers informed him of severe weather problems in the Big Thompson Canyon. As Purdy proceeded into the canyon, he ordered evacuation in the lower areas below the canyon, a decision that saved hundreds of lives. Purdy encountered the torrent coming from the Devil’s Gulch tributary of the Big Thompson River and was attempting to turn himself and others away from it. Purdy’s last words to dispatch at 9:15 p.m. on July 31, 1976, were, “I’m stuck, I’m right in the middle of it, I can’t get out…about half mile East of Drake on the highway. Get the cars out of the low area down below…” Purdy was found on a sand-bar eight miles below the point where he was last seen. Purdy’s Patrol car was two miles East of Drake at the bottom of a pile of eight cars. The only identifiable thing was the metal key ring still in the ignition.

Memorial service information

Place of Honor: Big Thompson Canyon Memorial

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