Accident Database

Report ID# 3357

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

June 23rd, 2010 – Salida Low Head Dam:

Lonnie Mills (74 Y.O.A, male) was the operator of a 13’ Downriver oar powered raft on a solo boat private trip. Onboard were Milton Crosby (79 Y.O.A. male, also deceased) and both men’s wives. The raft trip was in a class II section of the Arkansas River starting at Stone Bridge Recreation site. Crosby had borrowed the raft from a neighbor. Ms. Crosby said that there were 4 PFDs onboard. Only 3 PFDs were ever recovered. Ms. Crosby also said that Mills, her brother, often did not wear a PFD while rafting. Both females were wearing PFDs but the men were not.

As the raft approached the Salida Low Head Dam Mills saw two 4’ X 3’ signs on each side of the river warning of the hazard and advising the boat chute on river left or portage trail but he did not get over to river left. When the raft went over the dam, all occupants were ejected (dump trucked) from the raft. The two women were able to self rescue but both men did not and soon became neutrally buoyant. The victims were first spotted from shore as they passed through the Salida Whitewater Park. Crosby was recovered 2.73 miles downstream and Mills was recovered 2.97 miles downstream. Resuscitation efforts on both men were unsuccessful. The river flow was 1980 cfs.



Accident claims one

Sue Price - Mail Staff Writer


Milton Crosby, 79 of Sayer, Okla., died Wednesday after being thrown from a private raft on the Arkansas River, Chaffee County Coroner Randy Amettis reported. Crosby was one of two men pulled from the river as they floated through Salida about 1:28 p.m. Wednesday. The other victim, Lonnie Mills, 75 of Waterville, Ore., was airlifted by Flight for Life to St. Anthony Hospital in Denver. His condition remained unknown at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Chaffee County Sheriff Tim Walker reported the men were rafting with their wives, Wanda Crosby, 77, and Myrna Mills, 74. Their raft went over a diversion dam in the river about 2 miles northwest of Salida, throwing all four into the water. The boat remained upright.

After rescue, Milton Crosby and Lonnie Mills were transported to Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center in Salida. By 8 p.m. Wednesday it was unclear where Crosby died. Walker reported the women were wearing life preservers but the men were not.

Both women extricated themselves from the river, he said, and were later located near Frantz Lake. They were transported to the medical center for treatment of minor injuries. One of the men was pulled from the river north of the Scout Hut area of Riverside Park. The other was pulled out behind the Touber Building.

Salida Police Sgt. Ed O'Brien said, "Rescue personnel worked on them about 20 minutes." Mike Lombardi of Albuquerque, N.M., told The Mountain Mail he was kayaking when he heard people screaming. "I was surfing a wave and saw a man floating face down. I helped pull him into a raft and we took him to the side and started CPR," Lombardi said. "As we got him out, I saw the other man float by. Neither appeared to be breathing."

John Rhoads of Salida said he was walking his dog when he heard a woman scream there was a body in the river. He said he watched Lombardi and others "surround the man's body and pull it to the side. "Emergency vehicles arrived about five minutes later," Rhoads said. He said he saw another body pass "midstream and about two feet under" the surface. "The raft and other kayaks responded immediately. I ran down the bank keeping an eye on the body and spotted it about four feet down and 20 feet upstream," Rhoads said. He said both men "were wearing shoes and socks. Neither had on swimwear. It was a tragic accident that will haunt me for some time."

The river was flowing 1,980 cubic feet per second through Salida. A gray raft was recovered about 3 p.m. and removed from the river at Coors Boat Ramp upstream from the F Street Bridge. Search and rescue personnel looked for a possible third person until 2:35 p.m. when it was confirmed all parties were accounted for. Walker reported the quartet put their raft into the river about three-quarters of a mile upstream from Big Bend Recreation Area.

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