Accident Database

Report ID# 3841

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

Accident Description

Fort Collins rafter who died Wednesday identified

by Jason Pohl - Denver Post

June 5, 2014

The 26-year-old Fort Collins woman who drowned after her raft overturned Wednesday in the Poudre River Canyon was wearing a helmet and life jacket, authorities said. The Larimer County Coroner’s Office on Thursday morning identified the woman as Rebecca Knight. An autopsy was conducted, and a medical examiner determined that Knight died of accidental asphyxiation by drowning.

Emergency responders were called at 2:41 p.m. Wednesday to an area near Poudre Park northwest of Fort Collins on a report of a woman who was thrown from a private raft, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office said. Rescuers pulled the unresponsive woman from the water about 35 minutes after the initial call came in. Knight was treated and airlifted to Medical Center of the Rockies, where she later died.

Sheriff’s spokesman Nick Christensen confirmed on Thursday that the woman was wearing safety gear. It appeared that the raft flipped, sending all four occupants into the water. The raft’s three other occupants were able to make it safely to shore. A rescue boat or kayak, which is used by many commercial companies, did not accompany the approximately 14-foot-long multichambered private raft.

Knight was the third person to die in a swollen Poudre River in recent weeks, and the 15th Poudre River fatality in Larimer County since 1997. During Memorial Day weekend, a 14-year-old Greeley teen and his uncle died after the boy fell into the water and his uncle went in after him. The uncle was pulled from the river but died after being airlifted to a hospital, and the teen's body was recovered approximately 8 miles downstream from the Ouzel picnic area where he fell in.

Including Wednesday's death, 15 people have died as the result of incidents on the Poudre River's course through Larimer County since 1997, records from the coroner's office show. Buoyed by recent rains and spring runoff, the Poudre River is running at 7.01 feet at the mouth of the canyon, nearing its minor flood stage. Flows are expected to decrease through the weekend.

In Fort Collins, the river is flowing at 3,800 cubic feet per second, nearly five times its historical average for June 4. "We're continuing to assess the conditions of the river," Christensen said Wednesday. The sheriff's office has not yet restricted access to the river this year, but Christensen advised rafters to be a part of commercial trips if they want to enjoy the waters. Rafting companies typically have larger rafts that can handle the high waters, along with well-trained staff and regimented safety protocols.

The raft the woman was thrown from was privately owned and not associated with a commercial rafting company, the sheriff's office said. It's not uncommon for rafts and kayaks to overturn in the Poudre River. What is uncommon, Christensen said, is the number of high-profile rescues that have happened in the past couple weeks. "It's somewhat atypical," he said, adding later that normally, injuries aren't nearly as significant and rarely are people pulled from the raging waters unresponsive.

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