CANON CITY — A 48-year-old Oklahoma man died as the result of a rafting accident near the Salt Lick recreation area on the Arkansas River about 20 miles east of here Tuesday. According to Fremont County Coroner Carlette Brocious, the victim was identified as Van Hodges, of Enid, Okla. Hodges was with two of his three children and his wife in a commercial raft when the boat flipped in a rapid. All but one of the passengers got out of the water right away on their own or with the help of safety kayakers accompanying the trip, according to Brocious. Hodges had disappeared underwater for a bit and when he came out, a kayaker got him to the river bank, but rescuers could not revive him, Brocious said.
The commercial rafting group included a girls softball team from Oklahoma and their families taking a break from a tournament in Colorado Springs, Brocious said. Rafting company personnel got to the scene quickly and got the group on a bus and away from the accident site, Brocious said. The river was running at 3,400 cubic feet per second through the Bighorn Sheep Canyon Tuesday, down from 4,500 cubic feet per second last week. It was the first rafting-related death of the summer.
See more at: http://www.chieftain.com/news/region/upperark/2632875-119/brocious-rafting-river-hodges#sthash.5T0JJDZU.dpuf
Fremont County Sheriff's Office Capt. Don Pinover said the raft Hodges was in "went up on its side as it was going through some rough water." A press release issued by the Fremont County Sheriff's Office states that the raft "hit a stretch of rough water, causing five of the seven people in the raft to be tossed into the river."
The release states that four of the rafters were able to be assisted back into the raft, but "Hodges was apparently pulled under water for several minutes by the river's current before he surfaced and was pulled to shore by rescuers from the rafting company." Efforts to revive Hodges were unsuccessful, according to the release.
According to the release, "the accident occurred near the Salt Lick Recreation Site at MM 259, which is approximately 13 miles west of the Royal Gorge turn-off from U.S. 50."
The release identified the rafting company as Royal Gorge Rafting. The rafters were wearing their safety gear of helmets and personal flotation devices and two safety kayakers were accompanying the group of rafters, according to the release.
Fremont County Coroner Carlette Brocious said Hodges was accompanied by his family, and their raft was one of several part of the same group. She said Hodges was staying in Cañon City, and the group consisted of a girls softball team from Oklahoma that was playing a tournament in Colorado Springs.
According to the United States Geological Survey's website, the Arkansas River was running at 3,400 cubic feet per second at the time of the accident. Responding agencies include the FCSO, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Arkansas River EMS and American Medical Response Ambulance.