June 23, 2023
CPW’s AHRA investigating death of man after private boat flips in Arkansas River near Salida
SALIDA, Colo. – Colorado Parks and Wildlife is investigating after a man died Friday during a private boat trip down the Arkansas River east of Salida.
At about 3 p.m., witnesses said a raft carrying three people entered Bear Creek Rapid, which is a Class III rapid, and flipped. All three people were thrown into the swiftly flowing, 60-degree water.
One victim safely made it to shore. A ranger with CPW’s Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) was patrolling the river at the time and rescued a second victim from the water.
However, the third passenger and the upside-down raft went missing down the river triggering a search that included emergency response by AHRA rangers, CPW wildlife officers, the Salida Fire Department, Chaffee County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office, Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, Arkansas Valley Ambulance and Howard Fire Department.
The upside-down raft eventually was spotted about 2 miles downstream, just above Wellsville. It appeared the third victim had become entangled with the raft and was unresponsive.
Eventually, the victim, who was wearing a life jacket, became separated from the raft and came to rest on an island above the Wellsville Bridge.
A group of private boaters retrieved the body and brought it to shore where rescuers immediately began CPR. EMS emergency personnel continued CPR but they were unable to revive the victim, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
The body was turned over to the Chaffee County Coroner for determination of the cause of death, formal identification and notification of the next of kin.
This death is the 14th confirmed water-related death in Colorado in 2023 and the third in the Arkansas River in a week.
“Our deepest condolences got out to the family and friends of the victim,” said Tom Waters, AHRA park manager. He called it another tragic example of the importance of being prepared for entering challenging whitewater conditions at the peak of spring run-off from snowmelt.
Waters urged the public to check conditions by calling the AHRA before entering the river or to use a commercial rafting company.
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