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Accident Description


WILDLIFE OFFICER DROWNS ON THE COLORADO RIVER

On June 1, 1995 three state wildlife officers were using a motorized raft to measure endangered squawfish populations at higher river flows on the Colorado River near Rifle, Colorado. The group was wearing hip waders to protect themselves from the electric shocks used in fish sampling, but no PFD's. Their boat passed over a sand bar, sucking in debris and stalling the engine. By the time they got their paddles out they were right above the I-70 bridge abutment. Their raft overturned on impact. Fortunately two of the three officers made it to shore. The third, Steven Rakenmaker, 23, was pinned under the boat and drowned. He was discovered when the group returned to retrieve their raft.

SOURCE: Rocky Mountain News & Denver Post via Stacy Dorian

ANALYSIS: The two surviving officers were extremely lucky. Water typically collects in waders, making swimming very difficult. The lack of PFD's, contrary to state regulations, could easily have been fatal. It is doubtful whether either of these two mistakes contributed to the death of the victim, who was pinned underneath the boat. If a pinning and capsizing is imminent, boaters are advised to jump clear and swim to safety