16th Colorado Water Attraction Death: Amber Presson Dies Trying to Save Son

Clear Creek in Golden is one of the metro area's most popular tubing sites.
Clear Creek in Golden is one of the metro area's most popular tubing sites. Courtesy of Fox31
Amber Raye Presson, a 31-year-old from Denver, died on Sunday, August 13, while attempting to rescue her son while tubing on Clear Creek in Golden. Her death is at least the sixteenth at a Colorado water attraction in 2017, and the fifth fatal tubing accident in the state during that span, by our estimate.

As we've reported, the first water-attraction fatality of the season in Colorado involved a man who lost his life during a commercial rafting expedition on the Arkansas River circa April 30. On June 3, Bryan Reim was swept away at the Potholes, a busy Western Colorado recreation site, and two days later, on June 5, 32-year-old Elyssa McCreight died during a rafting trip on an Eagle County portion of the upper Colorado River known as Boneyard Rapids.

Next came a June 28 post headlined "The River in Colorado Where Two People Have Drowned in Nine Days," which initially dealt with two fatalities on the Poudre. The first victim was Maximillian Lopez, an eighteen-year-old from Washington state, who died while tubing on June 18. The second incident involved William McHarg, a 64-year-old from Severance, who lost his life after the commercial raft in which he was traveling flipped on June 27.

We later updated the item to include information about a second death on the 27th, this one involving Lafayette's Mark Wher, also 64, who died after falling into the Arkansas River rapids known as Widow Maker.

click to enlarge Another look at Clear Creek in Golden. - COURTESY OF FOX31
Another look at Clear Creek in Golden.
Courtesy of Fox31
Shortly thereafter, we learned about a third water-related casualty on the 27th, this one taking place at Eggleston Lake on the Grand Mesa, a gorgeous area along Colorado's Western Slope. Larry Smith Jr., 44, was paddle-boarding with a woman when he fell into the lake's frigid waters. And Cord Carpenter died at Jackson Lake, in Morgan County, after being reported missing on July 1. He was initially suspected of drowning, but subsequent reports suggest that he was felled by another health issue.

A ninth fatality involved Russ Zieglowsky, a 52-year-old former city councilman from Washington, Iowa; he died on June 21, but most Colorado news agencies didn't learn about what happened until a couple of weeks later. Zieglowsky toppled overboard on what has been described as a fairly easy stretch of the Taylor River, but he didn't respond to CPR. The official cause of death was drowning.

Then, at about 2 p.m. on July 15, Michael Brinks, a 66-year-old Craig resident, and a companion were traveling along the Tepee Rapids portion of the Yampa River in an inflatable kayak when he hit a rock. At that point, the kayak capsized, and even though the man was wearing a personal flotation device, he never came back to the surface. The person with Brinks reportedly kayaked more than twenty miles to Hells Canyon Ranch to seek help, with Dinosaur National Monument personnel learning what happened at about 9 p.m. The following day, rescue operations were launched, and the victim's body was recovered approximately three miles downstream from the accident, just shy of noon on the 16th.

That same day, July 16, Claudia Acuña-Gallegos, a resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, drowned after falling out of his tube at Smelter Rapid, in Whitewater park. Another tubing death, this time involving a 48-year-old woman on Clear Creek, took place on July 21. The next day brought a third fatality related to tubing, this time involving a 43-year-old Castle Rock man who drowned near the Platte River Campground in Jefferson County. And fifteen-year-old Trent Nims failed to respond to medical treatment after being pulled from Cherry Creek Reservoir that same day, July 22.

click to enlarge Kayakers are also common on Clear Creek in Golden during the summer. - COURTESY OF FOX31
Kayakers are also common on Clear Creek in Golden during the summer.
Courtesy of Fox31
The most recent incident prior to Sunday took place on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 1, at Green Mountain Reservoir. Summit County Sheriff's Office deputies were informed of a suspected drowning at 4:43 p.m. on the 1st, arriving at the scene of a popular diving rock fourteen minutes later. There, witnesses said that a man later identified as James Cummings, a 27-year-old from Denver, had dived off the rock but didn't surface after entering the water. Others on the scene immediately began searching for him, without success, and sheriff's office personnel didn't have much luck that day, either. The recovery effort stretched out into the next day. Finally, at around 12:30 p.m. on August 2, the body was located via the use of sonar equipment at a depth of approximately seventy feet.

Yesterday's tragedy took place at one of the metro area's most popular tubing sites. According to the Golden Police Department, Presson and her son, age eleven, entered Clear Creek west of 6th Avenue; neither was wearing head protection, which authorities recommend for tubers. Shortly thereafter, the boy's tub capsized and he fell into the water. His mom jumped in to save him and briefly seemed to do so, only to be pulled under the surface of the rapidly rushing water. Presson returned to the surface one more time and was heard by witnesses crying for help before sinking again.

Before long, bystanders managed to pull both Presson and her son from the water, and he was uninjured. Presson, however, appears to have hit her head on a rock and was knocked unconscious, the GPD account continues. An assortment of emergency personnel tried to revive her, but she didn't respond to their efforts. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Presson's son is currently in the care of relatives.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts