Accident Database

Report ID# 593

  • Flush Drowning
  • PFD Fell Off
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

On the afternoon of June 23, 1999 two Canon City teenagers, a 16 year-old boy and his 15 year-old sister, launched their kayaks into the Arkansas River. This section of the river, which contains mild rapids, was running at a moderate 3100 cfs. Soon after the put-in a wave capsized both kayaks. The young man got to shore and saw his sister floating 200 yards downstream. She was in a good swimming position: on her back, feet first. When she failed to appear a search was initiated. Her kayak and PFD were located that evening; her body was not found for three more days.

SOURCE: Press Release, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) Details are sketchy, but it seems that her PFD was either the wrong size or badly fastened. Without it, she was not likely to survive her swim.


The Arkansas River below Canon City, CO is downstream of that river's well-known whitewater. The river, running at a high 3190 cfs on June 23, contains a few mild rapids here. During the afternoon two Canon City teenagers, a brother and sister, were paddling together in kayaks. A mile downstream from the Reynolds Street Bridge the pair flipped in a series of standing waves. The brother swam to shore without difficulty. His sister, Mary Ann Smith, 16, was last seen floating downstream in her life vest. Her PFD and boat were later recovered by search parties, but her body did not turn up until three days later.


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