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Accident Description


Rafter dies after a flip in Smelter Rapid Man was identified as Jose Soto, 56, of Farmington

By Ann Butler Herald staff writer

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Durango Fire Protection District crew at Santa Rita Park helped a rafter who was pulled out of the Animas River about 5:20 p.m. After administering CPR to the man, who reportedly suffered cardiac arrest, he was transported to Mercy Regional Medical Center, where he later died. Medics administered CPR in Santa Rita Park to a 56-year-old man whose raft flipped Tuesday, but the man eventually died. A Durango Fire Protection District crew loads a 56-year-old man into an ambulance Tuesday afternoon at Santa Rita Park.

The man spilled into the Animas River after the raft he was in flipped in the rapids in the Durango Whitewater Park. Jose Soto died in the accident, coroner Jann Smith said. “He apparently was in a boat that flipped in or before (the Whitewater Park),” said Deputy Chief of Operations Hal Doughty of the Durango Fire Protection District. “Either his boatmates or bystanders pulled him out of the (Animas) river and brought him to shore.” About 5:45 p.m., the man was transported to Mercy Regional Medical Center. The man, Jose Soto, died, according to Mercy spokesman David Bruzzese. Coroner Jann Smith confirmed that the man was Soto, and said an autopsy would be conducted Wednesday.

The death occurred after two medics were onshore and began CPR, Doughty said, for what appeared to be cardiac arrest.“The rafters ran to the chamber and grabbed the (automated external defibrillator) we have from Heart Safe La Plata,” said Jack Llewellyn, the executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, which is in the park.Doughty said his crew took over once they arrived, working to get the man’s heart started again. “In our community, it frequently occurs that people are on the scene to start CPR before we get there,” Doughty said. “It’s very important to the odds of survival, getting that immediate attention.”

The Animas River was running well-above average for this time of year at 4,030 cubic feet per second as of 4:30 p.m. The median daily discharge for June 16 is 2,820 cfs. On Sunday, six rafters were flipped out of a raft downstream of Smelter Rapid on Sunday and managed to swim to safety.

abutler@durangoherald.com This story has been updated to reflect that Mercy spokesman David Bruzzese did not say Soto died at Mercy, he only said Soto was deceased. Under the Health Information Protection and Portability Act, health-care providers are allowed to release only a patient’s condition.