Woodland Park man dies in river
Matt Kroschel and Casey Mills
James Kennedy, 61 of Woodland Park, died Thursday after the commercial raft in which he was a passenger hit the center pier of the F Street bridge in Salida and flipped. The incident began at 1:22 p.m. when the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center raft carrying three customers and an unidentified guide, launched into the Arkansas River from the Coors boat ramp a few yards upstream from the bridge, witnesses reported. Within a moments of launch, the raft slammed into the pier and flipped.
Two of the victims crawled to shore, but Kennedy was pulled from the river on the north bank about a mile from the bridge. The guide remained with the raft and made it to shore near Kennedy. Kennedy was unresponsive, but had a pulse and was breathing, Chaffee County Sheriff's Office officials said. Soon after, he stopped breathing and cardiopulmonary resuscitation was administered. Off duty Salida Fire Department Capt. Chris Bainbridge was nearby in his kayak and paddled to where Kennedy was and began administering medical assistance. Other emergency responders used the CR 105 bridge and dirt roads to reach the site to assist.
Kennedy was transported to Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center where life saving efforts continued until he was pronounced dead later in the afternoon, sheriff's officials said. Randy Amettis, Chaffee County Coroner, said an autopsy will be conducted today in Colorado Springs. The river was running at 3,720 cubic feet per second and water temperature was 58 degrees at the time of the incident.
Dozens of people were near the river area and witnessed the event including Keri Godina of Salida who was upstream from the F Street bridge with her children. Godina said she watched the rafters preparing to enter the river and overheard the guide giving the group orientation. "The kid was asking the (guide), is there metal or something on the bottom of this boat? I don't understand how it's not going flip and not going to sink," Godina recalled. "The guide was saying, 'Yeah, it's made of really hard, durable rubber and everything's going to be fine.'" "That's when I kind of cut in and said, you're going to be okay if you're just going down the river," Godina said. She overheard the guide ask if any of them had been rafting. Godina said she heard only one member of the group say he had been rafting before Thursday.
They entered the river from the boat ramp near Godina's location, just upstream from the bridge. "When I saw them put in, they hit the current and it was way too fast," Godina said, "From this side, it looked like only the guide was trying to get them over. "I think she was yelling at them to help, but they were confused because they hadn't rafted before. "When I saw the raft hit and turn over I ran down the river bank and yelled up to the boathouse for someone to call 911," Godina said. Another eyewitness watched from downstream as the raft launched. It traveled down the center of the river, hit the pier and flipped, throwing all three passengers and the guide into shadows under the bridge. The raft remained upside down and floated downriver along with the passengers who were wearing life vests and helmets.
After passing through the lower playhole in Salida river park, the witness watched two victims crawl to the north bank of the river. The third victim continued floating downriver along with the guide who was holding onto the flipped raft.
Second Incident for RMOC on the same stretch of river Thursday's incident is the second river accident involving boats operated by Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center. The first incident was May 28 in the same section of river south of the lower playhole when a Fort Collins woman was knocked from her inflatable kayak and became entangled in low tree branches at the river edge. She was rescued by an RMOC guide who climbed onto the branch and untangled the victim. In that incident, a Mountain Mail staff photographer was on scene and documented the event. RMOC owner Colin Buskist was contacted by The Mail Thursday, but refused to comment regarding the incident. The Mountain Mail was on scene Thursday photographing the high water before the raft incident and saw the event unfold. A series of photos documenting the raft flipping were recorded, but will not be used.
http://www.themountainmail.com/main.asp?SectionID=4&SubSectionID=4&ArticleID=14002&TM=60231.36 6/19/2008 2:37:00 PM
RAFT FLIPS AT F STREET BRIDGE, WOODLAND PARK MAN DIES
Matt Kroschel and Christopher Kolomitz
61-year-old James Kennedy of Woodland Park died Thursday afternoon after the commercial raft in which he was a passenger hit the center pier of the F Street in downtown Salida, flipped dumping a guide and three others into the Arkansas River. The incident began at 1:22 p.m. when the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center raft launched from the Coors boat ramp a few yards upstream from the bridge, witnesses reported. Within a few seconds of launching, the raft slammed into the pier and flipped.
The guide and two others were able to get to shore but the victim was recovered about a mile east of the accident and brought to the north shore of the river, sheriff's office officials said. He was unresponsive but had a pulse and was breathing. Soon after being checked, he stopped breathing and CPR was administered. The was taken to Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center where life saving efforts continued until he was pronounced dead later in the afternoon, sheriff's office officials said. The river was running at 3,720 cubic feet per second and the water temperature was 58 degrees at the time of the accident.