First Drowning Victim of the Season? Kayaker Found Dead in South Platte

Last year, as we reported, heavy rains in Colorado led to a staggering number of drownings in the state.

Among those we memorialized in this space were Jason McKain and Chris Danko, both of whom drowned in Boulder Creek; Steven Kelly, who drowned in the Arkansas River; Joey Goodwin, who drowned while tubing in the Platte River; and Rose Mary Morgan, who lost her life while tubing the Platte in Douglas County — and they were hardly the only Colorado drowning victims.

This year, we've had plenty of precipitation as well — and now comes a report about what may be the first drowning of the season, in the South Platte River near Dodd Bridge in Morgan County.

The victim: a thus-far-unidentified 23-year-old resident of Fort Morgan.

According to the Morgan County Sheriff's Office, 911 dispatchers were contacted at about 12:15 p.m. on Friday, May 6, by a man who said his friend had vanished after his kayak went over a diversion dam west of the bridge.

MCSO personnel, joined by representatives of the Brush Fire Department, wildlife officers, Jackson Lake park rangers and the Morgan County Ambulance Service rushed to the scene, joined later by the dive rescue team from the Platte Valley Fire Protection District.

In the beginning, the kayaker, who was wearing a personal flotation device and a helmet, was thought to have been caught within the dam's hydraulics.

After all, his kayak floated downstream without him inside it after going over the dam.

But rescuers couldn't locate him, and at 8 p.m., the search was temporarily called off due to darkness.

The search resumed at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 7.

And around 10:30 a.m., a body presumed to be that of the kayaker was found in the river between County Road 25 and 26.

Public identification of the victim is pending next-of-kin notification.

Let's hope this tragedy isn't the start of another deadly season on Colorado's waterways.

We send our sincere condolences to the kayaker's friends, family and loved ones.

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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