Man dead after falling into Poudre on rafting trip
Rescuers raced up the Poudre Canyon on Tuesday morning after a man became unresponsive in the rough waters of the Poudre River. The 64-year-old Severance man was on a commercial rafting trip when his raft flipped. A rafting guide performed CPR until the man was airlifted to Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, where he later died.
As the guide worked to revive the man, four other rafters waited, stranded on the other side of the Poudre River until rescuers could safely bring them back to shore.
The water temperature Tuesday was around 52 degrees and the river flow around 1,600 cubic feet per second in the Ouzel picnic area along the Poudre River. Water flows were below average in the area, but June sees the swiftest water speeds of the year.
The Ouzel picnic area is along the Poudre River, roughly 15 miles west of Ted's Place — the intersection of U.S. Highway 287 and Colorado Highway 14. Even as rescue crews swarmed the area and blocked off a portion of Highway 14, rafts full of people enjoying the warm weather floated along the river.
The call for help came around 10:30 a.m., about an hour after three commercial rafts from Fort Collins-based Rocky Mountain Adventures got on the water. One of the rafts went over a hydraulic or hit a rock, said David Costlow, a representative from the River Outfitters Association.
Everyone else on the overturned raft was able to make it safely to shore. Costlow said it appeared the man became unresponsive when he flipped into the water and was not making efforts to swim to safety. The Larimer County Coroner's Office has not yet determined manner and cause of death.
All rafters, including the man who died, were wearing life jackets and helmets, according to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.
Tuesday's incident was not the first time a tragic story has stemmed from the popular picnic spot.
Poudre River rafting fatalities are relatively rare. Deaths from those on commercial trips are even more unusual. A woman was killed in 2015 when she was thrown into the river while on a private trip, and a similar situation the year prior also left a woman dead.
Costlow said if you fall into the river, it's safest to float feet-first on your back. That way, you can push off any rocks or obstacles you encounter, and your feet are less likely to get trapped underwater.
"Our deepest condolences go out to the man's family and friends," Poudre Fire Authority said in a statement on Facebook. "This is a somber reminder of the power of the river."
Man dies in rafting accident while on trip run by Rocky Mountain Adventures
Authorities say a 64-year-old man died during a commercial rafting trip in northern Colorado.
The Fort Collins Coloradoan reports the Severance man, whose name wasn’t released, was on a trip run by Rocky Mountain Adventures when the raft he was in flipped on the Poudre River on Tuesday morning.
David Costlow with the River Outfitters Association says the man was wearing a life jacket and a helmet, and it appeared he became unresponsive when he hit the water. A raft guide performed CPR until the man was flown to a hospital, where he died.
No other injuries were reported. A woman who answered the phone at Rocky Mountain Adventures referred questions to Costlow.
A member of the Rocky Mountain Sea Kayak club was on the trip with the fatality on the Poudre. I asked him for any more info he might have. His reply is below:
I cant offer much. Commercial rafting is what it is and the Poudre is cold, fast, and more technical than some others. We were a group of 3 rafts, all with 6 to 7 riders and 1 guide each. The raft that flipped had a seasoned guide. Ours had the rookie.
I didn't see the raft flip. Our boat was 2nd through the rapid. The victim's boat was last . We had just cleared Devils Staircase and gone over the small drop after that. We were less than 20 minutes into the run. After I heard the whistle I was focused on our guide and listening for instructions until after we paddled out to the island to get the victim and bring him back across.
I noticed my sense of time was heavily distorted by the adrenaline rush, so I can't even give estimated times on the flip to the start of CPR to getting the victim off the island and over to the bank
The Larimer County Coroner's Office has identified the man who died while rafting on the Poudre River on Tuesday.
William McHarg, 64, of Severance died after his raft flipped over and all passengers were pitched into the cold water. Witnesses said McHarg became unresponsive after falling into the water and did not appear to be swimming to safety.
According to the coroner's office, McHarg had severe heart disease and died from a heart attack and drowning.
McHarg was on a commercial rafting trip with Fort Collins-based Rocky Mountain Adventures at the time of his death. Everyone else on the overturned raft was able to make it safely to shore — though some were stranded on the far side of the river and needed to be brought back across. All rafters were wearing helmets and life jackets.
The water near where he was rafting, by the Ouzel picnic area, was around 52 degrees and flowing about 1,600 cubic feet per second, which is below average for this time of year. The Ouzel picnic area is along Poudre River, roughly 15 miles west of Ted's Place — the intersection of U.S. Highway 287 and Colorado Highway 14.
Cold water can shock a person's body, particularly if they have underlying coronary disease. In 2015, a 76-year-old California man died on the Poudre River after falling into the water. The coroner found cold water had triggered a heart attack.
The guide on McHarg's rafting expedition performed CPR while rescuers raced up the canyon. McHarg was airlifted to Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, where he was later died.