June 27 will go down as one of the deadlier days at Colorado water attractions in state history. On that day, three men drowned at different locations within hours of each other, including two rafting deaths and an incident involving a man who fell off a paddle board into an ice cold lake.
Our post headlined "The River in Colorado Where Two People Have Drowned in Nine Days" 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 the 27th.
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 Arkansas River rapids known as Widow Maker. He was the second person to die on the Arkansas this season; the first rafting fatality of the season took place there on April 30.
Now comes word of 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.
According to the Montrose Daily Press, a 44-year-old man from Grand Junction was paddle-boarding with a woman when he fell into the lake.
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The woman and another witness tried to rescue the man, who had a life jacket on the paddle board but wasn't wearing it at the time he went into the water. However, the Delta County Sheriff's Office says the two were unable to save him due to the frigid temperature of the water.
This last element of the story may surprise some observers, given that temperatures across the state were blazing hot on the 27th — but it makes perfect sense to those with knowledge of the Grand Mesa. My family has a cabin in the area that's inaccessible in many years until mid-June, and sometimes as late as the 4th of July, because of insufficient snow melt. And even when all of the roads in the area are open, the lakes on the Grand Mesa remain freezing cold well into the summer.
Because of the remote location, rescuers didn't reportedly reach the scene for 25 to thirty minutes, and when they arrived, the man didn't respond to resuscitation attempts. His identification awaits next-of-kin notification.
The AmericanWhitewater.org website tracks river fatalities across the country, including Colorado, and while its roster of water deaths and serious injuries in the state isn't all-inclusive, it's large and sweeping, listing 182 dating all the way back to 1956. The site's records show only one other date on which two drownings occurred at separate locations in Colorado: June 8, 2002. That's an indication of how unusual were the three fatalities on June 27, 2017.