The Tepee Rapids stretch of the Yampa River, where the latest fatal incident took place.
The Tepee Rapids stretch of the Yampa River, where the latest fatal incident took place.

Michael Brinks ID'd as Tenth Fatality at Colorado Water Attraction in 2017

Update: The 66-year-old man who died in a kayaking accident on the Yampa River on July 15 has been identified as Michael Brinks, a resident of Craig. Continue for our previous coverage.

Original post, 5:48 a.m. July 17: A 66-year-old man died Saturday, July 15, in a kayaking accident on the Yampa River in a Colorado portion of Dinosaur National Monument. By our count, the incident marks at least the tenth fatality at a water attraction in the state thus far in 2017.

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 popular 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, while 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.

Russ Zieglowsky died on the Taylor River last month.
Russ Zieglowsky died on the Taylor River last month.
YouTube file photo

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 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.

The latest tragedy took place in a section of the Yampa known as Tepee Rapids. At about 2 p.m. on the 15th, according to the Aspen Times, the victim was one of two people traveling along this part of the 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. This companion 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 Sunday.

Thus far, the man hasn't been identified, pending next-of-kin notification.

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