Accident Database

Report ID# 1070

  • Swim into Strainer
  • Failed Rescue

Accident Description

Dear Members, I am sad to report that Colorado Whitewater member Robert Locke died this weekend while kayaking on Anthracite Creek above the confluence with the North Fork of the Gunnison River. A group of seven kayakers attending Powderhorn weekend was paddling the bottom portion of Anthracite Creek (the Class II+ section, not the Class V section upstream) when the group came across a near river-wide strainer. The strainer was clearly visible from upstream, and the first boater in the group signaled for everyone to eddy out on river right. Robert, who was the second kayaker in the group, saw the signal and gave the eddy-out signal to the other boaters, all of whom were able to make the eddy.

Although members of the group have different perspectives on what happened next, what is known is that Robert did not make the eddy and was next seen trapped against the strainer. Robert's head and a portion of his torso were above water, as four or five of the group scrambled onto the strainer and attempted to rescue him. Ultimately, Robert went under the strainer, where his fellow boaters worked to free him. After being submerged for several minutes, Robert was cut free.

Several members of the group chased Robert as he was carried away by the swift and very cold water. They found Robert approximately a third of a mile downstream. Two members of the group were medical professionals and immediately began CPR, which they continued until the paramedics arrived some 45 minutes later. Robert was transported to a hospital in Delta where further attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. He was 34 years old.

Robert had been boating for nine years and based on his description of river experience was a solid class IV boater. Most of the other members of the group were also at least class IV boaters and had attended swiftwater rescue and CPR/First Aid classes. Robert's death was traumatic for everyone present, but particularly for Robert's father, who was one of the kayakers in the group.

As a club, we have little experience in dealing with this kind of loss; Robert is only the second fatality on a club related trip in the club's fifty-two year history. Robert's death is a terrible loss for his family and friends, who have our sincerest thoughts and prayers. Our thoughts and prayers also go out to his fellow boaters, who struggled to save his life. I will be getting additional information over the next week and will post emails as necessary, but wanted to let you know now about this tragic event. Patrick Tooley President, Colorado Whitewater

Golden Kayaker Drowns Trapped by Tree in Creek, Rescue Fails

by Staff

May 31st, 2006

Golden, CO - Thirty-four year old Robert Locke died Sunday after getting tangled in tree branches while kayaking on Anthracite Creek, above the North Fork of the Gunnison River. According to the Rocky Mountain News, Locke had been paddling with his father and a number of other experienced river runners including members of the Colorado Whitewater Club, though it was the father and son's first time paddling with the group. The kayakers were in fairly calm water when they came upon a strainer, a tree fallen in the water. Locke motioned to the other boaters to pass to the right of the strainer, but became trapped against the obstacle when trying to do so.

Members of the group paddled over to him and tried to release him from the strainer and were successful, but not before Locke's upper body was pushed underwater. After loosening him from the tree, Locke's body was carried about two-thirds of a mile downstream before paddlers could pull him out of the water and start CPR. He died later at Delta County Memorial Hospital.

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