Accident Database

Report ID# 3076

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • High Water

Accident Description

Dolores Man Presumed Dead After Canoe Capsizes

Search Suspended Until Water Recedes On Dolores River

POSTED: 6:35 am MDT May 13, 2009

CORTEZ, Colo. -- A 45-year-old man is presumed dead after his canoe capsized in the Dolores River on Friday evening. Lt. Ted Meador with the Montezuma County Sheriff's office said the search for James Vavra of Dolores was tentatively suspended Monday because of high-flowing water. The lieutenant says he assumes the body is entangled in debris and he hopes searchers can make a recovery when the water recedes. The canoe is thought to have capsized upriver from the Fourth Street Bridge in Dolores. Meador said a second person in the canoe, Tracy Sanchez of Cortez, was found along the river bank and was treated at the scene. Sanchez was not hospitalized. Meador said the river's water temperature is in the low 50s.

The Denver (5/13/09)

Man presumed dead after boat capsizes

Canoe belonging to James Vavra of Dolores flipped Friday night

by Steve Grazier The Cortez Journal

Article Last Updated; Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Dolores man whose canoe capsized Friday evening in the Dolores River is presumed dead after a two-day search by rescuers. Authorities tentatively suspended their search Monday for James Vavra, 45, because of high flowing water in the river and downstream to McPhee Reservoir, said Lt. Ted Meador, spokesman for the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office. "We're assuming the body is entangled in debris within the river or the lake," Meador said. "Hopefully, when the water goes down, we can make a recovery." The canoe probably capsized upriver from the Fourth Street Bridge in Dolores about 6:45 p.m. Friday. A second boater in the canoe, Tracy Sanchez, of Cortez, was found along the river bank and treated at the scene, Meador said. Sanchez did not require hospital care.

Alcohol might have been a factor in the accident, along with high water and cold water temperature. The river's water temperature is likely in the low 50s, Meador said. The flow of the Dolores River above McPhee was listed at about 2,920 cubic feet per second at 6 p.m. Friday, said Ken Curtis, an engineer with the Dolores Water Conservancy District. One cubic foot per second is equivalent to a water flow of 449 gallons per minute. Mike Preston, general manager of the water district, said a typical flow of the Dolores River during the non-runoff season ranges between 200 and 500 cfs. On April 5, which is before the start of the spring runoff, the river was flowing at about 200 cfs, he said.

Meador said boaters, swimmers and anglers should be cautious about cold, high water in area rivers and lakes during spring, which is a peak time for snow runoff. He said alcohol consumption and boating recreation are not a good combination. As many as 10 rescuers and sheriff's officers using four boats looked for Vavra on Saturday, Meador said. Agencies assisting in the search included the Dolores Fire Department, the local United Search and Rescue team and the sheriff's office. Meador said rescuers did find a jacket owned by Vavra during Saturday's search. He said authorities have not ruled out locating Vavra alive. "We're hopeful we can find him alive," Meador said. "Right now, we're classifying this as a potential body recovery." Meador was able to rule out foul play regarding the boating accident. "We're still investigating the case, and there's no suspicion of foul play at this time," Meador said. The Durango Herald (5/13/09)

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