A 36-year-old Durango man was pulled alive from the Dolores River after a rafting accident Sunday afternoon but died later at Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez. Robert Benson Muir, who was alone in a two-person raft, flipped into the water when his craft struck a boulder on the left bank of the river about 5½ miles northeast of Dolores, Montezuma County Coroner Charlie Rosenbaugh said Monday. Muir was not wearing a life vest, Rosenbaugh said. "There's a straight stretch and then an immediate right," Rosenbaugh said. "On the left there's a huge boulder, and he got into the swift current that pushed him into the rock. "He was shot out, down the river," Rosenbaugh said.
"A buddy behind him in another raft began yelling, which attracted the attention of a kid in his yard." The boy ran to the river and, with the rafting friend, tried to keep Muir's head above water, Rosenbaugh said. A bigger raft, occupied by a man and a woman, helped get the victim ashore about 100 yards farther down the river. Emergency medical responders, including a team from Southwest Memorial Hospital, arrived at that time.
Rosenbaugh didn't have the name of the rafting companion. The cause of death was drowning due to submersion and hypothermia. Montezuma County Undersheriff David Hart said the accident was reported at 1:27 p.m. The victim was taken from the river in the 19000 block of Colorado Highway 145, Hart said. The accident occurred south of the confluence of the Dolores River and the West Dolores River.
Norm Pope, who rode motorcycles with Muir for seven or eight years, said his friend was always willing to go the extra mile. "He was the nicest guy you'd run across," said Pope, a computer engineer in Durango. "He was always trying to help out and never wanted anything in return." Muir was a sous-chef at Purgy's at Durango Mountain Resort from 2000 to 2003, Loryn Kasten, director of public relations at DMR, said. When he left DMR, he plied his culinary skills for short stints at Dalton Ranch and the Palace Restaurant, but was planning to return to Texas, according to Pope. "He liked Durango but had trouble finding his place here," Pope said. "He was looking for a better opportunity as a chef. He was professionally trained." Muir was an outdoors type who enjoyed riding dirt bikes and snowmobiles as well as his motorcycle, Pope said.
A number of Muir's friends honored Muir with a ride to Bakers Bridge along County Road 250 - one of Muir's favorite "get out and go" rides because it didn't require a lot of preparation, Pope said. Pope said Muir's family plans a memorial service in Durango some time soon. A funeral is scheduled in Colleyville, Texas, on Friday.