Rafter dies in Raging Poudre River
By Joey Bunchand Kieran Nicholson, The Denver Post
The cold mountain snowmelt now raging in many of Colorado's recreational rivers claimed its third victim of the month Thursday afternoon. The river fatality came after four people were thrown into the fast-flowing Cache La Poudre River west of Fort Collins during a commercial rafting trip.
There were four rafting or tubing deaths in the state at this point last year, according to a record kept by The Denver Post. Winter's heavy snowpack — three to four times its normal depth in some parts of northwest Colorado — has been slow to melt until recently because of cool spells in the high country. That could mean a prolonged period of whitewater, rather than the sharp rise in flow that normally happens by mid-June. "We're not in the prediction business, but my guess is we're looking at two to three more weeks of good high flows," said Michael Lewis, associate director of hydrologic data for the U.S. Geological Survey's Colorado Water Science Center in Lakewood.
The names and hometowns of those involved in Thursday afternoon's accident have not been released. The Larimer County coroner's office said it would perform an autopsy today to determine the rafter's cause of death. Another of the rafters broke a leg, and two others, who were wearing wet suits, were pulled from an island in the river and were apparently uninjured, authorities said. The incident happened at about 12:40 p.m. near the Mishawaka Inn, about 25 miles west of Fort Collins on Poudre Canyon Highway. The spot is popular with rafters but has a history of trouble, said Larimer County sheriff's spokesman John Schulz.
On June 16, there were three rescue operations on the river, but they resulted in only minor injuries, he said. "The river is running pretty high, and it runs through the rocks pretty fast, and there's a little dip, so it can be challenging," he said. "When the river is running this fast, there are going to be problems." Thursday afternoon, the river was running "much above normal," according to the USGS. River gauges measured the flow at 276 percent of its normal mean for the date.
The four were part of a trip operated by Rocky Mountain Adventures in Fort Collins. A spokesman for the company did not return a call after the incident. Last year, Colorado hosted more than 507,000 rafters, with a $150 million impact, according to the Colorado River Outfitters Association, the trade group for commercial adventure companies. Rocky Mountain Adventures' online description of the rafting trip highlights the rapids on Mishawaka Falls and describes the outing as "much more action-packed than the other half-day whitewater rafting trips, with plunges that vary from intermediate to advanced in difficulty." The company warns: "The current is swift and the channels are narrow, with fun but challenging rapids."
Reunion turns tragic with raft accident on Poudre River
By Jordan Steffen The Denver Post
The Diskin children spent months planning a mountain vacation with their parents, but it took only a moment for the overdue reunion to turn tragic. The family, who rented a home near Fort Collins and planned on hiking and enjoying other outdoor adventures, set out Thursday on a commercial raft trip down the Cache La Poudre River. "They were all looking forward to being together. I'm sure they never expected this," said Jan Llewellyn, whose daughter is married to the eldest Diskin child.
Frank Diskin, 69, of Parsons, Kan. — the father of the six Diskin children — drowned after he was thrown from the raft into the frigid, fast-flowing Poudre west of Fort Collins, according to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office. A representative from Rocky Mountain Adventures, the company that operated the trip, said it is still investigating the accident, the first fatality in the company's history. During the ride, the raft "dump-trucked," or became perpendicular to the water, and tossed everyone into the swollen river. While it could not say what caused the raft to tip, the company confirmed that the craft did not flip.
Most of the rafters were able to get back into the craft. Diskin and three others were swept downriver. One of the four broke a leg and was rescued, and two others, who were not injured and were wearing wet suits, were retrieved from an island near the Mishawaka Inn, about 25 miles west of Fort Collins, police said. Family members told Llewellyn the accident occurred when the raft hit a boulder, launching Diskin, Llewellyn's 15- and 17-year-old grandsons, and a fourth person into the river. The rafting company did not say whether the raft hit a rock.
Llewellyn said her grandsons were able to swim to safety, but police would not confirm whether they were the two rescued from the island. "They were having a good time and enjoying their time together, and this terrible accident happens," Llewellyn said. The coroner's office ruled that complications of heart disease also contributed to Diskin's death. Deputies will meet with employees of Rocky Mountain Adventures and the U.S. Forest Service sometime during the next few days, said John Schulz, spokesman for the Larimer County Sheriff's Office. The meeting should help determine what happened during the accident. Currently, there is no active criminal investigation into the accident, Schulz said. "It's a tragic thing, but it's part of the sport," he said. Rocky Mountain Adventures said everyone who goes on its raft trips must wear a life jacket and helmet.
Jordan Steffen: 303-954-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org