Accident Database

Report ID# 3938

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

On May 22, 2015, a Texas woman died in a commercial rafting accident on Colorado’s Clear Creek. Michelle Math, 47, fell out of her raft at Hell's Corner Rapid on the Kermit’s to Green Rock section. This was a two-boat trip, and although the 600 cfs flow was moderate, this particular section is relentless Class IV with few breaks in the action. The woman was quite heavy, her raft-mates were unable to pull her back in the boat. The raft hit a rock and stopped suddenly and the water tore the swimmer away.

According to a report from John Hopper, he and a friend were running the river in kayaks near the trip when they spotted Ms. Math lose contact with her raft and get flushed downstream. Her life vest had ridden up over her face, reducing support and restricting her movement. he kayakers immediately gave chase as they were now the last best hope for her survival. At this point Ms. Math was responsive to verbal commands, and the friend was able to talk her into grabbing one of the loops on his kayak to attempt a rescue, but she could not hold on to his boat.

Mr. Hopper had positioned himself about 15 yards downstream, but by the time Ms. Math reached him, she was unconscious. He stayed with her through several more rapids, and was finally able to push her ashore during a rare stretch of easier rapids. By this time Mr. Hopper estimates she had been unconscious for more than 2 minutes It’s clear that without help from these two paddlers the woman would have washed downstream for many miles.

Guides from two companies arrived; together they lifted her out of the water and attempted CPR, but were unable to revive her. Both Mr. Hopper and one of the guides from another company are trained as WFR's (Wilderness First Responders). The attempt continued for about 12 minutes until EMS and a SAR team arrived on scene, at which point the guides and Mr. Hopper cooperated in transporting Ms. Math's body across the river, and turned over the scene to EMS

Woman in deadly Clear Creek rafting incident ID'd

Raquel Villanueva, KUSA, May 22, 2015

A Texas woman was killed in a rafting incident in Clear Creek Friday morning, according to the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office. The victim was identified late Friday as 47-year-old Michelle Math of Wylie, Texas. At about 11:30 a.m., a call for help came in after the rafting accident left several people in the creek near 259 U.S Highway 6, just east of Idaho Springs. When deputies and officers arrived, they found a fellow rafter performing CPR on Math. She was transported back across the creek and eventually pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death will be determined by an autopsy. No other information has been released.

(KUSA-TV © 2015 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

Ttoday was one of those days that we all fear. I was kayaking with a friend of mine when we came upon a raft that had a swimmer who they were trying to pull back into the boat. They were unsuccessful. The swimmer got out ahead of the raft with her PFD up over her face, so my friend and I gave chase. For a brief moment the swimmer was able to get a hold of one of his grab loops, but wasn't able to keep ahold of it for some reason. By the time she got close enough to my boat to get one of my grab loops, she was completely unresponsive. I had been calling to her urging her to try to stay calm, but now I went to poking her with my paddle. Nothing. The rapid that we were in was basically a class III+ at the beginning, but continued to be class III-ish for probably a 1/4 mile. Part of the problem we had was that she was very heavy, like 250-300 heavy, so my friend had almost 0 chance when he was trying to paddle her into an eddy. Once the rapids calmed down I was able to bump her into an eddy, but I believe she was gone already for more than a minute. We did attempt CPR on the side of the river, but we were unsuccessful. I really wish I had something other than this to post today.


Fox TV 31 Denver

Kayaker did everything he could to try to save woman killed in rafting accident        

CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. — A local kayaker said he did everything he could to save a woman who died after a rafting accident Friday afternoon on Clear Creek. “Everything I’ve ever been trained to do, we did today,” said John, a local safety kayaker who asked FOX31 Denver not to use his last name. “It’s terrible. It’s the first time I ever saw somebody die right in front of my face.”

John said he and a friend were kayaking on Clear Creek when they encountered a rafting group in trouble. “One of the paddlers was out of the raft and the other people in the boat were actively trying to rescue her, trying to pull her back in,” John said. The first rescue attempt failed and the woman was swept further down the Class three rapids. That’s when John and his friend gave chase. “She was able to get a hand on my friend’s boat and get a grip,” John said. But 47-year-old Michelle Math of Wylie, Texas lost her grip after encountering a rock.“I’m not  sure he would have been able to paddle her to shore anyway,” John said. “But that was the last time I ever saw her have a response.” Several hundred feet later, John got her to shore, and he and a first responder took turns administering CPR.“She did cough up some water, but never really responded, never had a pulse, never breathing,” John said.

According to the Colorado River Outfitters Association, Michelle Math was on board one of two rafts owned by All-American Adventures out of Denver. One of the rafts either flipped or hit a rock during the trip, sending several people into the creek. All of them were able to get to safety except for the woman.

The Clear Creek County Sheriff is now investigating the incident and the cause of her death.

Either way, John says he’ll continue taking part in the sport he loves. “You know there’s thrills in it, it’s enjoyable, I’m going to paddle again, but you have to understand that you’re taking a risk,” he said.

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