Accident Database

Report ID# 3338

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

Accident Description

Rafting accident victim remembered

William Spang was killed Saturday on the Eagle River

by Aaron Hedge The Aspen Correspondent, Glenwood Springs, CO

ASPEN — Longtime Aspen resident William Spang, 48, died Saturday after being thrown from a raft on the Eagle River. Spang, an experienced rafter, was on the river with good friends Derek Mitchell and John Galvin, both of Aspen, when the raft flipped in a hole at the bottom of a rapid near or in Dowd Junction, authorities said. All three were wearing life vests, said Alex Iacovetto, a patrol sergeant with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office.

Mitchell and Galvin called 911 at 11:36, bringing out numerous emergency responders. Runoff and rainy weather that has pelted Eagle County the past few days have raised river levels to dangerous heights, Iacovetto said Spang may have died of a heart attack in the water, Mitchell said, citing the coroner on scene. Law enforcement officials in both Pitkin and Eagle counties said rafting and kayaking is particularly dangerous now due to high, fast water.

Originally from Massachusetts, Spang established a strong passion for the outdoors, learning to ski from his father who taught him to race on the Buddy Werner trail on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. He moved to the area from Massachusetts in the early 1990s to build a house in Steamboat Springs, eventually following a girlfriend to Aspen in 1994. After that relationship, he met Silke, who is originally from Germany, in 1997 while “out bar-hopping,” she said. They married in 2001, and Kristen was born in 2002 as “the best thing that ever happened to him,” Silke said. That passion for his children was coupled by an intense love of the river. Silke recalled a time, observing a rapid, when Spang said, “That looks so awesome; don't you want to do that?” “He was like a little kid sometimes. He thought he was invincible,” Silke said from her back patio west of town, which she said Spang built from brick and sweat.

Mitchell remembered Spang as a man of integrity and honesty, as well as his best friend. They met in 2006, when Spang built Mitchell's house. From there the men quickly became best friends and spent the next four years frequenting the surrounding ski slopes, snowmobile trails and rushing rapids looking for the next adrenaline rush. But more than that, Mitchell said, Spang lived up to his word. Silke recounted his daredevil lifestyle with a smile and many tears, saying he had a number of close brushes with death. “He used his nine lives,” she said. Spang had no life insurance policy. Friends are setting up a fund to contribute to the family through American National Bank. Anyone interested in contributing can call the bank at (970) 544-3777 and ask how to donate to the family of William Spang.

Aspen Man Drowns Rafting Eagle River

Drowning Second River Death This Week
 June 5, 2010

EAGLE, Colo. -- An Aspen man died while rafting Saturday morning in the Eagle River – the second drowning in western Colorado this week. The Eagle County Sheriff's Office identified the victim as William Spang, 48.

Shannon Cordingly, spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, said shortly before noon, the man and two friends were rafting on the Eagle River west of Vail. The raft was going through an area of curves and choppy water when the raft overturned. The two friends were able to self-rescue but they didn't see their friend. They called 911 for help. The body of the man was recovered near Dowd Junction.

Cordingly said the men are considered experienced rafters and had been wearing personal floatation devices. “The river is definitely running stronger than usual,” she said. It was the first drowning in Eagle County this year. Tanny McGinnis of the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office said there is a high water advisory and they are asking people to be properly prepared if recreating in the water.

“The water is a totally different beast than it was yesterday,” McGinnis said. “The banks are flooded and there is a lot of debris in the water. We are really encouraging people not to be in the water near the banks without personal floatation devices.”

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