Brothers and sisters, I don't quite know what to say, but since there's conflicting information in the media, I want to get my account of the events of that day out there. — This is my version, the others who were there have theirs, but I don't want to speak for anyone else. So to that point, I'm not going to name anyone who was there, or relay second hand the accounts they gave me. All I will say is this: Each and every paddler with us on the river that day did everything in their power to come to Jon's rescue.
The facts as I saw them are these: Nine of us put on to the Pine Creek section of the Arkansas river Friday afternoon and had a pretty successful run down to Pine Creek rapid. Knowing that it was an extremely challenging rapid, and that the level was high, the entire group stopped to scout - and most of us decided pretty instantaneously to portage. Jon and a couple of other boaters decided to run it.
The portage is long. It runs along the railroad track for maybe a quarter of a mile, and leaves you pretty much blind to the rapid. We had just laid our boats down and were about to walk back up when one of the boaters in our group came into view trying to push Jon's boat aside into an eddy. Jon came bobbing down a few seconds later.
Some of us immediately jumped into boats and gave chase. I stayed on the bank and tried to help with a throw rope operation. As the water is moving extremely fast through the run-out, there was only time for one rope to be thrown. It landed just over Jon's downstream shoulder, but he made no attempt to grab it. Knowing at that point that something was terribly wrong, the rest of us jumped in our boats as quickly as possible and started paddling downstream as fast as we could.
At one point I passed a boater who had gotten Jon's boat onto the bank. I pretty much ignored that and kept up the chase.
About a quarter mile further down, I came upon another boater from our group - one of the initial chase party, who had clearly just been out of his boat, which was nowhere to be seen, and was up on a rock, trying to catch his breath. He gave me the signal that he was ok, but didn't know what was happening downstream. I paddled harder.
Coming around a bend in the river to what I would later learn was the numbers put-in, I finally saw Jon. Another paddler had a hold of him and was dragging him onto the bank. I eddied out as quickly as I could, and as I went to pop my skirt I could see that two of the paddlers had started CPR. I ran along the bank until I was close enough to take over rescue breathing, so that the other two people on the bank at that second could switch off on chest compressions. By this point, most of the group was there, doing what they could to help with CPR, cutting his gear off, making sure that 911 had been called, clearing a path, etc.
I gave Jon rescue breaths for 20-30 minutes before the Park Service got there and took over. Those of us no longer assisting with CPR cleared a spot on the bank so that we could get him completely out of the water, in order to facilitate the use of a defibrillator.
By that point the ambulance was on scene and paramedics had gotten down the bank. They took over and continued trying to resuscitate Jon for another 40-50 minutes before declaring him deceased.
Those of you who know me know that Jon was one of my best friends — I rarely paddled without him, and we spent more time goofing off together out of the water than is probably healthy too.
I am utterly heartbroken by his loss. But I'm also thankful that I was given the opportunity to know and learn from him. Jon pushed me, not just to be a better paddler, but to be a better person.
He inspired me, as he took pure joy in almost everything around him — even the things the rest of us ignore and take for granted.
I'm going to miss him, but I'm also looking forward to seeing him again, inside of each and every one of you — because I know that if you knew him at all, he left a part of himself within you. (If you knew him well, you'd know that he'd make a bad "that's what she said" joke right now.)
Thank you for reading this, I hope it helps. I think it's maybe helped me a little bit to write it.
A second whitewater-related boating accident fatality on the Arkansas River in as many days claimed the life of an unidentified man Saturday. The Chaffee County Sheriff's Office reported the accident occurred about 12:30 p.m. July 12 between the Fisherman’s Bridge area and Browns Canyon approximately 8 miles south of Buena Vista.
According Undersheriff John Spezze, witnesses who were in the area at the time said they observed an unidentified man become lodged on a rock near Fisherman’s Bridge.
The man dislodged his boat and headed for shore. The witnesses continued downriver for approximately 1.5 miles. A short time later these same witnesses observed an unoccupied kayak floating downstream. They then observed the same unidentified man floating face down behind the kayak.
The man was pulled to shore immediately and CPR was administered. Chaffee County EMS arrived a short time later and continued with CPR. However efforts to revive the man were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The victim's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. He was operating a private kayak not associated with any commercial rafting company.
Other agencies assisting in this incident were the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office and the Chaffee County Coroner’s Office.
And several boaters tried to rescue him, but were unsuccessful.His body was pulled from the river about one mile south of the rapids.Chaffee County EMS responded and administered emergency CPR, but were not able to revive him.Kennedy was pronounced dead at the scene.
He was a Systems Manager at Northwest Arkansas Community Clinic.He was also a kayak instructor. He leaves a wife and two young sons.