Accident Database

Report ID# 115074

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

recent heavy rains were likely a contributing factor, but the 750 cfs is still a low-medium flow. According to the upstream gauge, water temps were 58 f ( a touch lower due to the rain.) I don't know anything other than the post, but I'd guess that a raft dropped into rapid number #5, hit the rock on river right, highsided and dumped passengers. A middle-aged person suffered a heart attack and wasn't recovered for another mile or so.


Sat 7:23 PM

Baxter Pharr via FB: There appears to have been a whitewater death on the Arkansas River near Buena Vista today. While kayaking the numbers, we noticed what appeared to be a dead body on river left about .5 mile below rapid #5. There were 2 Chaffee County Sheriffs vehicles, a state trooper, an ambulance, and a coroners vehicle near a dead body. A green raft (unsure whether it was a private or commercial) appears to have flipped in #5 and apparently a individual swam through the 5 1/2 section, a class 4- section of the river. There was a flush drowning from an overturned commercial raft back around 2006 in this same section. There had been considerable rain over the previous 24 hours and the river had risen about 200 cfs overnight to a level of around 800 cfs. Hope this info helps with the AW database.


Rafter Dies Near Numbers Section of Arkansas River

One man died on Saturday, July 24 after a commercial raft reportedly flipped in ‘rapid number 5’ on the Numbers section of the Arkansas River north of Buena Vista, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).

The Chaffee County Coroner identified the man as 51-year-old Brian Fitzpatrick of Colorado Springs. A press release from CPW reported, “A commercial rafting company downstream of the incident rescued a non-responsive man from the river and a commercial guide immediately began performing CPR…”.

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) rangers, Chaffee  County Sherriff’s deputies, and Chaffee County EMS responded to the 911 call. AHRA rangers and EMS personnel took further emergency action to save Fitzpatrick when they arrived but were unable to revive him. An autopsy established drowning as the cause of death.

There was no high-water advisory in effect on Saturday at the time of the incident. The Arkansas River within the AHRA is the most commercially rafted section of river in the country seeing over 180,000 commercial rafters in 2020. The Numbers section of the river is known for some of the most challenging rafting on the Arkansas with several class IV – V rapids.


Man dies after commercial raft flips on difficult part of Arkansas River

by: Colleen Flynn, KDVR-TV31 denver

Jul 24, 2021 / 09:23 PM MDT / Updated: Jul 24, 2021 / 09:26 PM MDT

BUENA VISTA, Colo. (KDVR) — Colorado Parks and Wildlife said a man died after a commercial raft he was in flipped on a difficult part of the Arkansas River Saturday.

CPW rangers from the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area responded to a 911 call about an incident near the Numbers, a steep and rocky 5-mile section of the river.

The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area is based in Salida. The AHRA is a state park that follows a 152-mile corridor of the Arkansas River just below Leadville to Lake Pueblo State Park. A guide of a commercial rafting company downstream got the man out of the water and performed CPR.


“AHRA (Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area) rangers responded, and when they arrived on the scene they learned a raft flipped in what is known as rapid No. 5,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife said. “A commercial rafting company downstream of the incident rescued a non-responsive man from the river and a commercial guide immediately began performing CPR on the victim.”

Rangers and an EMS team from Chaffee County took over life-saving efforts after getting on scene but were unable to resuscitate him. He has not been identified at the time of this writing.

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