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Season's First Colorado Drowning? Man Dead in Commercial Rafting Accident

A photo from the Fremont County Sheriff's Office showing rescue equipment used in response to yesterday's fatal rafting accident.
A photo from the Fremont County Sheriff's Office showing rescue equipment used in response to yesterday's fatal rafting accident.
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What appears to be the first fatal accident on a Colorado waterway during the 2017 season happened yesterday, April 30. The thus-far-unidentified victim was a man taking part in a commercial rafting trip on the Arkansas River. The casualty is the first of its kind to have taken place in April over the past three years, a period that's been particularly deadly in Colorado.

Deaths and injuries on Colorado waterways are tracked by AmericanWhitewater.org, which is described on its website as a national nonprofit with a mission "to conserve and restore America's whitewater resources and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely." We've shared the organization's Colorado statistics for 2016 below. They show ten fatalities that year, with the first occurring on May 6. The first deaths in 2014 and 2015 were registered on May 31 and May 12, respectively.

High water frequently contributes to such accidents, and forecasts suggest that such conditions could exist in Colorado this season. The Colorado Water Conservation Board's latest drought report reveals that year-to-date snowpack in the state was 91 percent of normal on April 19. That figure was down from 121 percent of normal on March 17. But this past weekend's storms are likely to have pushed the current figure close to or beyond the normal level.

The details released thus far about the latest incident are basic. At around 12:38 p.m. on the 30th, according to the Fremont County Sheriff's Office, deputies were dispatched to an area of the Arkansas River near Sunshine Rapid — an area near the end of Fremont County Road 61.

The report: a commercial rafting accident that left three people in the water.

By the time deputies arrived, the trio had been pulled from the water, but one male was unresponsive, despite the administering of CPR. Subsequent lifesaving efforts by a variety of medical personnel — agencies involved included Flight for Life Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Fremont Search and Rescue and personnel from the Royal Gorge Route Railroad — were unsuccessful. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Representatives of these agencies and others undoubtedly hope that this early-season fatality doesn't portend a even deadlier spring and summer on Colorado waterways than we've experienced of late. Here are the aforementioned figures from 2016.

State/Country Date Name/Age River/Section Flow/Class Boat/Cause Factor/Injury Type/Private
CO United States 2016-08-11 Jamie Page 25 Colorado 02. Gore Canyon Medium V Whitewater Kayak-
Flush Drowning
Failed Rescue/ Fatal Private
CO United States 2016-07-24 Patrick Kelsall 19 Colorado 02. Gore Canyon Other-
Unknown
Other/ Fatal Private
CO United States 2016-07-15 Unidentified Man Cache La Poudre 05. Narrows Picnic Ground to Steven's Gulch Access Medium V Other-
Unknown
Failed Rescue/ Fatal Private
CO United States 2016-07-05 Lynn Marks 52 Arkansas 03. The Numbers Low Inflatable Kayak-
Flush Drowning
Poor Group / Scene Management/ Fatal Private
CO United States 2016-07-03 Sandra Johnson 51 Arkansas 06. Fisherman's Bridge access to Stone Bridge access IV Raft-
Flush Drowning
Other/ Fatal Commericial
CO United States 2016-06-25 Nate White Daisy Creek 01. 40' Waterfall to confluence with Slate River V Whitewater Kayak-
Impact/Trauma
/ Spinal Injury Injury Private
CO United States 2016-06-24 Sandy Wolder 63 Green 2- Lodore to Echo Park Medium IV Raft-
Swim into Strainer
Other/ Fatal Commericial
CO United States 2016-06-20 Unidentified Man Vallecito Creek 01. 1 mile above Vallecito CG V Whitewater Kayak-
Impact/Trauma
Other/ Injury Private
CO United States 2016-06-15 James Abromitis 58 Roaring Fork 02. Slaughterhouse High IV Raft-
Flush Drowning
High Water/ Fatal Commericial
CO United States 2016-06-13 Sandra Johnson 52 Arkansas 06. Fisherman's Bridge access to Stone Bridge access Medium Raft-
Flush Drowning
Cold Water/ Fatal Commericial
CO United States 2016-06-11 Unidentified Woman Clear Creek 03. Lawson to Idaho Springs High IV Raft-
Flush Drowning
Other/ Injury Commericial
CO United States 2016-05-22 Debra Lynn Brymer 61 Arkansas 11. Parkdale Launch to Canon City IV Raft-
Flush Drowning
Cold Water/ Fatal Commericial
CO United States 2016-05-06 Unidentified Man 35 South Platte VI Whitewater Kayak-
Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
Inexperience/ Fatal Private

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