Accident Database

Report ID# 715

  • Swim into Strainer
  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • Inadequate Equipment
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

Cheap rafts and the absence of life vests took a toll on inexperienced floaters. On March 28th a man took his son and stepson, both 11 years old, fishing on Colorado's South Platte River. He bought a cheap vinyl raft which carried warnings against moving water use. As they were loading the boat it got loose and was swept downriver with the two boys aboard. Neither one was wearing a life vest. One boy made it to shore, but Keith Gallegos, who was wearing heavy boots, did not. His father ran into the creek to catch them and broke his leg while attempting a rescue.

Articles in the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post reported that a group of kayakers, alerted to the unfolding events by a fisherman, found Gallegos pinned against a mid-stream rock. They pulled the him out of the river and began CPR. One of them drove several miles down the road to find a phone and notified authorities. Deputies publicly praised their efforts.

Paul Gallegos, the boy's father, was indited for felony child abuse following the incident. The indictment reads that he "recklessly put the children in danger" by allowing them to get in the raft without PFD's. While I agree that this is a violation of common safety practices, I also feel that pressing criminal charges, which carry up to 52 years in prison, is truly excessive. The man meant his son no harm and is no danger to society. According to his ex-wife he loved his son and always treated him well. He injured himself severely while trying to rescue him. His loss is punishment enough.


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