Accident Database

Report ID# 2720

  • Impact/Trauma
  • Head Injury / Concussion
  • Other

Accident Description

Justin was in an inflatable kayak with gear for two days and his dog, Cassius. He was the first boat in a party of 30 ish. At Eye of the Needle, Justin choose to go left around the center rock. His boat made contact with the rock and flipped his IK. The next boat behind Justin witnessed him reflipping his boat on the river right, so he focused his attention on Cassius, who was downstream against a cliff. The next boat that came through saw Justin on the river right shore sitting without his boat. Justin made a joke about losing his flip-flops The second boater continued downstream 100 yards and stopped.

That was the last anyone saw Justin alive From the location of the two downstream boats, Justin was not visible. They spent some time trying to get the dog, thinking that Justin would walk downstream. The remaining boats came through the rapid. Not one had seen Justin. Thinking that he had hiked to the railroad tracks, the group proceeded downstream 1/2 mile or so, until they found the empty IK. They saw a person on the tracks and all but one continued downstream. It was soon discovered that the person on the tracks was not Justin. There was an on shore search for Justin. He was not found there. Another group, however, found Justin floating face down no more than 1/4 mile downstream of his point last seen. Autopsy results show a large hematoma on the back of Justin's head.

No one saw Justin's last moment, but judging from the injuries found and the person himself, only two possibilities seem likely. One, Justin hit his head during the flip of his IK. He swam to shore only after he realized that he was unable to get in his boat. Once on shore, he went unresponsive and fell into the river. The other possibility is that Justin swam to shore to get out of the 40-50 degree water. After resting for a moment, he got up to retrieve his boat. The shoreline being steep and cobbled, and the high water mark still visible, he slipped, hit his head and tumbled into the river. I do not think that had Justin returned to the river to swim downstream, he would have sustained these injuries.

Justin was a strong swimmer with considerable river experience. The only conclusion I can draw from this accident is to maintain a heightened level of awareness on all rivers. I find no fault in any of the actions of Justin's group. They were on a float trip through a relatively benign section of whitewater. However, I cannot help but think, had they kept a reasonable space between boats, had they communicated the situation, or had they been looking for Justin earlier, this horrible tragedy might have been avoided.

Justin had just celebrated his 30th birthday, just finished his MBA from CU and was engaged to be marred this September.

Grand County, Colorado

Guide tried to save kayaker
Guide laments that he and rescuers couldn’t save 30-year-old Boulder man
Steve Lynn, Vail, CO

GRAND COUNTY, Colorado — Paul Killino immediately started cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on a man he saw floating down the Colorado River — but it was too late. Killino did chest compressions as a woman gave mouth-to-mouth on the man, who showed no signs of life, Killino said. The woman, a nurse, and the man she was with continued to give the man CPR as they rafted the man to a boat ramp in Radium, Killino said.

“It was a valiant effort by a lot of people,” said Killino, an Edwards resident and Alpine River Outfitters guide who was leading a fly-fishing trip at the time.

Justin Brindley, 30, of Boulder, who was running the Colorado River in an inflatable kayak, drowned last Friday afternoon in Lower Gore Canyon near Radium. Brindley was pronounced dead after being flown by Flight for Life to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver. He was boating with a larger group, but authorities say there were no witnesses to the accident.

After talking to witnesses, Killino learned that after Brindley fell out of his kayak, people saw him get out of the river. But somehow, Brindley ended back in the water, Killino said. Killino thinks Brindley might have slipped and fallen, hitting his head at some point. But no one Killino has talked to knows what exactly happened. “It’s a shame,” Killino said.

Killino gave his condolences to Brindley’s family and friends. He wonders if rescuers could have saved Brindley’s life if anyone had seen the accident.“I’m very disappointed we couldn’t have got to him sooner,” Killino said.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 970-748-2931 or


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