Man dies after rafting 
accident on Roaring Fork

by Chad Abraham, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Victim was 44-year-old resident of Denver

A Denver man died after he fell out of a raft on the Roaring Fork River on Monday afternoon near the Aspen Business Center.

The victim was 44, said Dr. Steve Ayers, Pitkin County coroner. His name was not released pending notification of next of kin.

The man was one of two to fall out of the boat, which was being operated by a guide from the Aspen-based company Blazing Adventures.

A press release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said the other man was able to get back in the boat and was in satisfactory condition.

Ayers said the other man was in the river for about five minutes before those on the boat pulled him back in. The victim then said he couldn’t breathe and collapsed unconscious.

“It’s not a straightforward drowning,” Ayers said, adding that a post-mortem examination is scheduled for today.

The man’s wife was with him in the boat and was to receive grief counseling, sheriff’s deputy Alex Burchetta said at the scene.

 Jordan Curet/Aspen Daily News
A team of first responders work together to rescue a rafter who went into cardiac arrest after falling into the Roaring Fork River on Monday afternoon. Rescuers administered CPR while transporting the victim up the steep embankment from the river to the Rio Grande Trail.

Authorities responded to the Stein Bridge area below the business center around 2:40 p.m. Others in the boat performed CPR on the man for 15 minutes on the riverbank, as did a doctor who happened to be on the Rio Grande Trail and scrambled down the steep embankment, Burchetta said.

First responders continued CPR and also used a defibrillator as other responders set up a rope-pulley system to extricate the man up to the trail, Burchetta said. Nearly 16 people worked together to carry the victim from the river to the trail, moving 20 feet at a time and maintaining chest compressions the entire time. But the man was put into an ambulance without a pulse.

Ayers said it’s unclear how the man fell into the water. The group was running Class IV rapids along a 4-mile stretch that was flowing around 1,300 cubic feet per second on Monday.

When the victim hit the water, it may have triggered the body’s dive reflex, Ayers said. In such cases, rapid body cooling can significantly reduce the heart rate.

“It can be drastic, and you go into [heart] arrhythmia,” Ayers said.

He said he didn’t know if that is what led to the man’s death and that more information may be available today.

Aspen Daily News photographer Jordan Curet contributed to this story.