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Accident Description

Victim, who was tubing with friends, could not be revived
Tubers took on rough waters 26-year-old drowned in turbulent patch of Boulder Creek

By Eric Schmidt, Camera Staff Writer
June 12, 2006

A 26-year-old man died Sunday while tubing on Boulder Creek west of Eben G. Fine Park. He was part of a group of young men and women who put in at Elephant Buttress climbing area about a mile west of Boulder, said Sgt. Dan Barber of the Boulder County Sheriff's Office. Police and paramedics responded to reports of a possible drowning about 5:30 p.m. just outside the city limits. "The group hit some rough water and a couple of them lost their tubes," Barber said. "They ended up finding a tube without one of their friends."

Bystanders found the unconscious victim, pulled him from the water and attempted CPR, Barber said. He could not be revived. Lahoucine Boudiz, of Boulder, said he heard calls for help and arrived to find the man badly bruised with cuts on his face. Police said the victim suffered "significant physical trauma as a result of being battered about by the rushing water in the rock-strewn stream." "We tried to help him," Boudiz said. "I was holding his hand to see if I could get a pulse, and nothing happened."

Boudiz said he has been swimming in the creek for 15 years and noticed that the water flowed faster Sunday than earlier in the week. Boulder Creek was running quickly because of temporary overflow from Barker Reservoir near Nederland, which reached capacity Saturday, said Cmdr. Phil West of the sheriff's office. But runoff has reached its seasonal peak, and Sunday's flow of 314 cubic feet per second was only half the level that has led authorities to close the creek to tubing in past years.

No tubing ban is in effect this summer, West said, and the decision to implement one would depend on water flow rather than any one incident. He urged tubers and rafters to wear helmets and flotation devices, especially on turbulent stretches of the creek. The victim had family in the southern Colorado town of Trinidad and was staying with relatives in Boulder after returning from a trip abroad, West said. His name was not released Sunday pending notification of relatives. An autopsy is scheduled today to determine the cause and manner of death.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Eric Schmidt at (303) 473-1628 or

By John C. Ensslin, Rocky Mountain News
June 13, 2006

BOULDER - Life along Boulder Creek Monday resumed its usual pattern for a warm spring afternoon, one day after the drowning of a Trinidad man. On a rock outcropping, a man was meditating. Someone posted notices for a lost dog. A young woman and a friend rode their inner tubes in the churning water. It will take a while longer, though, for life to resume its normal flow for the family of Jesse Dalla Betta. The 26-year-old drowned Sunday after he and some friends tumbled from their inner tubes in a turbulent stretch of the creek beneath the Elephant Buttress climbing area west of Boulder. The cause of death was ruled an accidental drowning by Boulder County Coroner Thomas J. Faure.

On Sunday, water was flowing through the creek at about 314 cubic feet per second, said Lt. Phil West, a Boulder County sheriff's spokesman. That's about half the level at which the county normally imposes a ban on tubing. Still, the creek was flowing heavily because water was released a day earlier from Barker Dam to prevent it from overflowing. The issue in Sunday's drowning, however, wasn't so much the creek's flow but the point at which the group chose to put in, West said. "In this case, the point where they were tubing is very rough and very turbulent," he said. He noted that the victim suffered a significant amount of head trauma and may have been knocked unconscious before he drowned.

Monday's warm weather drew several people to Boulder's Eben G. Fine Park, where some visitors maneuvered the creek in inner tubes despite the drowning. "(The ride) was a blast," said Seth LeJeune, 20, of Lafayette, who rode the creek for about 90 minutes until a slow leak left his tube deflated. His friend Heather Prosser, 19, of Westminster, took her first try at tubing in the creek. "You just have to know your limitations," Prosser said. "In reality, it's not that bad," she said. "If you feel you're in trouble, you just stand up. There are only a few places where it's not shallow enough to stand." But that wasn't the case west of the park, where Dalla Betta and his friends slipped from their inner tubes, West said. That part of the creek has some large rocks and twisting turns. West advised people to be familiar with the area where they are tubing and to wear head gear and floatation devices. A group kayaking near the scene of Sunday's deadly accident was wearing such equipment. "People should take hints from the professionals," West said. "They should not assume that the Boulder Creek is just a lazy, slow-flowing, pastoral creek." or 303-892-5291