Accident Database

Report ID# 1071

  • Health Problem
  • Heart Attack / Heart Failure
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

Well-known local dies in rafting accident

By Katie Klingsporn

Published: Monday, May 22, 2006

Jim Stewart - a well-known resident who friends say forged an indelible presence in Telluride with his volunteering spirit, smarts, talent and generosity - died on Friday while rafting in Idaho. Stewart, 50, was on the first leg of a rafting trip down Idaho's Middle Fork of the Salmon River with a group of friends when the incident occurred. The group was floating a tributary called Marsh Creek when Stewart's boat flipped and he was pitched into the water. He was able to swim to a manned kayak and was kicking toward shore when it is believed he had a heart attack, friends said on Sunday.

Stewart was pulled from the water into a raft quickly, but CPR and other life-saving efforts failed to revive him. Although an exact cause of death has not been released, it is suspected that Stewart died of a heart attack. The Custer County Sheriff's Department, located in Challis, Idaho, would not release any specifics on the accident on Sunday. However, it is known that the group cut their trip short and will be returning to Telluride soon.

A memorial ceremony is in the works but is pending the arrival of members of Stewart's family. Friends described Stewart as a source of bottomless generosity and energy who poured himself into a multitude of passions and retained a spicy wit. He was a chef, a world traveler, an avid rafter, an angler and a vigorous volunteer, they said. "He was involved in so many things,? said friend Karin Nance. And he went beyond being just involved in many things to being the kind of guy who mastered his passions, said friend Jody Bozzuto, who is from the Virgin Islands. He was multi-talented, there were so many things that he did so well, Bozzuto said.

Stewart, who had lived in Telluride for roughly a decade, was currently a member of Telluride Marketing, Inc., the Telluride Historic and Architectural Review Commission and the Nature Conservancy Advisory Board. He could often be spotted lounging on main street and doing the kind of volunteer work that takes tremendous patience. On Sunday, a group of his close friends who were gathered at his home remembering him agreed that he was a man of remarkable generosity."I'll miss him every day," said Chris Hazen. Hilary Coe called him a one-man not-for-profit organization, and said he would devote himself wholly to any of the many causes that sparked his attention. "He was a great volunteer, Coe said. he was probably the most generous person I've ever met in my life. They agreed that while his absence will be sorely felt, he died while in the midst of an activity and with people he loved. He died doing what he loved, Nance said, adding. It's a space that cannot be refilled, that's for sure.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon, which is called The River of No Return, is one of the most sought-after stretches of white-water in the nation. Stewart's group was on the river a couple weeks in advance of the high season, which runs from June through September.

Reporter Katie Klingsporn can be reached at "

On May 19, 2006, the Custer County Sheriff's Office received a report that a member of a rafting party on Marsh Creek had passed away due to a heart attack. Arrangements were made for law enforcement, Forest Service personnel and a Deputy Coroner to go into Marsh Creek area and retrieve the body. "When personnel arrived on scene it was determined that the victim, James Stewart, age 50 of Telluride, Colorado, had gone into the water from a raft that had flipped, the afternoon of Thursday, May 18, 2006. "

The Custer County Sheriff's Office would like to thank all the other agencies that assisted in the recovery effort. "No further details will be released on this incident as it is under investigation. "The Custer County Sheriff's Office Marine Deputy would like to remind everyone that the river is very dangerous this time of year. We have extreme high water due to early spring run off. She advised that Marsh Creek is almost to the point where it would be un-navigable, and if you do choose to float this section of the river you must have expert knowledge in river navigation. "She recently received a report that at the first foot bridge on Marsh Creek, kayakers had to duck to float under. Any vessel larger than a kayak will not be able to clear the bridge; there it is advised to scout the bridge prior to floating."

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