Accident Database

Report ID# 2296

  • Health Problem
  • Heart Attack / Heart Failure
  • Other

Accident Description

Subject: Rafting Fatality Arkansas River in Southern Colorado

What: Death of a 46-year-old employee of American Adventures Expeditions during a training exercise.

Where: Pinball Rapids, Arkansas River, near Nathrop, Colorado

When: May 28, 2007, 10:15 a.m.

Background: The victim and other occupants of the raft were participating in swimming and rescue drills when he was stricken and had to be rescued from the water. CPR was performed on Kirkwood at the scene of the incident. It is believed that the victim experienced cardiac arrest but the autopsy will verify the cause of death.

A 47-year-old man died Monday during a rafting trip in the Brown's Canyon area of the Arkansas River, near Buena Vista in Chaffee County. A spokeswoman for the Colorado River Outfitters Association said the circumstances were still being investigated late Monday evening. The trip was a training outing, not a public trip, said Julia Schneider, association spokeswoman. Schneider said she could not release further details until the man's family were notified."

Pinball rapid has got to be one of the most difficult places to drown that I can think of. It's a sort of combination of big eddy lines and gentle pools caused by swirls around big rocks. I really have a hard time understanding how someone drowns there (of course anything can happen). Dane Patterson

First year raft guide dies during training exercises

by Jason Starr Mail Staff Writer

Brian Kirkwood, 47 of Buena Vista, who died in the Arkansas River in Browns Canyon Monday, was a first-year raft guide undergoing standard training exercises with American Adventure Expeditions. Kirkwood, whose name was released Tuesday, was with other guides from the Johnson Village outfitting company. A Texas native, he had been in Buena Vista less than two weeks. "It's tough because he was a member of our staff," American Adventure Expeditions owner Mike Kissack said. "He was a great guy, so we all have heavy hearts over here. Our thoughts are with his family and with everyone who knew him."

An autopsy was performed Tuesday morning, but Chaffee County Coroner Randy Amettis said cause of death won't be known for approximately two weeks. Amettis said Kirkwood was participating in an exercise in which trainees enter the river, swim about 100 yards, then leave the river. The exercise was being conducted in Class III Pinball Rapid in Browns Canyon. Amettis said Kirkwood became unconscious while swimming. Chaffee County Sheriff's Deputies, Colorado State Parks Rangers and Chaffee County Emergency Medical Services personnel responded. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was administered. Kirkwood was pronounced dead at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center.

All outfitters on the Arkansas River conduct new guide training and veteran refreshers this time of year, Bob Hamel of Arkansas River Outfitters Association said. Hamel, who owns Arkansas River Tours of Cotopaxi, said the swimming exercise in which Kirkwood was participating is designed to familiarize guides with what guests experience if and when they fall into the river during a raft trip. "You do it in a controlled environment so guides experience it because it's inevitable that guests will swim," Hamel said. "Guides need to know what that's like." The death Monday was the second fatality in the Upper Arkansas River this season.

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