Accident Database

Report ID# 50085

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

All evidence points to the woman taking a trip through a "pirate outfitter".  The "guide" was ill equipped and did not seem to personally know the woman he killed at all.  He was paddle guiding with only one other paddler in the raft.
TAOS — Authorities say an Albuquerque woman was wearing a life jacket June 21 when she died rafting the Rio Grande with a private guide. The life jacket didn’t save 72-year-old Cheryl Current from drowning after she fell from the boat in water that was gushing above 3,500 cubic feet per second — the result of heavy mountain snowpack that has steadily melted during the warmer spring and summer months.
Guides from Los Rios River Runners rafting the same section of the Rio Grande stopped on the riverbank about a mile south of Pilar and attempted to resuscitate Current. 
Cisco Guevara, founder and president of Los Rios, wasn’t on the river that day but said his guides — who he called some of the best in the business — were troubled by the experience. 
“They were pretty shook up about this and we’ve had to give them a few days off,” he said.  Guevara, who said his company hasn’t had any customers die on the river, sees the tragedy as an example of what can go wrong when private boaters head downstream without considering the risks.
In general, he said, his guides avoid taking senior citizens or children down the river when water levels are high. The private boater carrying Current has not been identified by authorities. Taos County deputies, medics and fire personnel who responded to a report of an unresponsive rafter lined up along the guardrail on N.M. 68. River guides helped recover Current’s body and it was taken to the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator.
Guevara said he and other rafting professionals do what they can to look out for private boaters. Some of them, he said, are highly trained, but many others are hobbyists. 
Professional guides always do their best to go down the river one after the other to provide a safeguard in case someone falls from a boat, he said.“At these water levels, it’s common for people to fall out of the boat — it’s part of the fun actually,” Guevara said. “People get blasted out by the big, giant hydraulic waves, or the boat flips, and that’s happening quite often.”

Usually, he said, about 10 percent of rafters fall in, but his guides are always prepared.

Guevara said he doesn’t want to scare people off the river. It’s where he’s made his livelihood and also where many people in Taos have had some of their best outdoor experiences.

Still, he said, “You have to take it seriously. And really, you’re better off hiring the professional people — at these water levels, especially.”

This story first appeared in The Taos News, a sister publication of the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Albuquerque woman dies in Rio Grande rafting accident
Monday, June 24th, 2019 at 2:47pm

SANTA FE – Businesswoman Cheryl Current, 72, of Albuquerque has been identified as the person who died in a rafting accident on the Rio Grande near Pilar on Friday afternoon.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said Current was in a private raft — not one operated by a commercial rafting company — when the raft got into some rapids and she fell in and drowned. She was in the raft with a friend and the friend’s daughter and was wearing a water vest, the sheriff said. 
“It’s just an unfortunate event,” Hogrefe said. “Our hearts go out to the family.” “When the river is up high like this, the risk certainly increases,” he added.

The melting of heavy snowpack left over from a wet winter has water in the Rio Grande running fast so far this rafting season.

Current and her late husband Rod Current, who died in December 2016, opened the Bodyworks by R&C vehicle bodyshop, on Central west of Juan Tabo, in 1984 “and worked it up together from there, and it’s still going strong,” said Bodyworks general manager David Ansell.

Body of rafter recovered from Río Grande south of Pilar

Posted Friday, June 21, 2019

By John Miller

Updated June 21 at 6:30 p.m.

First responders recovered the body of a rafter from the Río Grande just south of Pilar Friday afternoon (June 21), but authorities have not yet identified the deceased or provided details as to how exactly the rafter died.

A report of an "unresponsive rafter" came across emergency radio channels just before 4 p.m. Friday, sending first responders to the river's edge near Pilar, an area where rafters and kayakers push into the river or pull boats out after running waters further north.

"What I heard was somebody died," said Stephen Fabrey, who spoke at the riverbank not far from where the recovery was taking place. "We put in about 1:30 p.m. At the takeout, we didn’t see many boats behind us. What  I heard is that there was a private boater who fell out at Herringbone [rapid]."

About a mile to the south, Taos County deputies, medics, fire personnel and raft guides staged along the guard rail on State Road 68, stalling traffic in either direction.

The first responders used ropes to haul the body up the bank to the roadway, where it was then transported by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator.

Water levels in the Río Grande have been unusually high in recent weeks due to a heavy snowpack that has melted steadily this spring and early summer.


Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!