My name is Casey Lynch and I own Mountain Waters Rafting in Durango. I have been running the Upper Animas commercially for 22 years. I have been acting as spokes man for Mild to Wild Rafting during this tragic time. I received 4 phone calls yeaterday asking me to respond to this forum sooo here goes.
First: I would like to thank the hundreds of phone calls and e mails that we have received here in Durango. The boating community is a great community and the Durango Boating community is the cream. I consider myself very fortunate to part of it.
Second: I would like to thank the people in the forum. During this tragic time is a good time to re-evaluate personal priorities and for those of us in the business we need to reevaluate professional priorities.
Third: Kayak safety boat vs raft safety boat has been debated in our company for the past 22 years. In an ideal world a safety kayaker for each guest would be the best.
We have found that a safety Kayak works best with 3 or fewer swimmers in a section of river that has eddies with customers who are concious, calm and able to assist in the rescue.
Safety rafts work best in high water in section of river where the eddies are few and far between with swimmers who are not able to assist in their rescue. The raft can stay in the current and be with the lead swimmer and not have to go to shore with each customer.
2 years ago my company had set up safety below No Name (The largest Rapid on the Upper Animas), I was a paddler on a safety raft we were using. Another company had a kayaker acting as safety. The other company had a swimmer and the kayaker took off after the swimmer. We followed in the safety raft. The swimmer could not hang on to the kayak. The kayaker ended up dropping his paddle and grabbing the swimmer and popped his skirt in the process. Our safety boat caught up and one of the paddlers grabbed the kayakers by the life jacket and the safety boat pulled the whole mess to shore. It is a judgement call as are most things on a Class V river.
In our company we let the trip leader decide which safety they need.
My head guide Juan Cullum wanted me to add that the brotherhood of commercial guides on the Upper Animas is as strong as anywhere in the country and we all look out for each other. That is whay some of the comments in this forum are so emotional. We are looking out for each other.
Fourth: Are customers prepared for a class V river and do they know what they are getting into? We do our best to allow our guests to make an informed decision. Please feel free to pull our liability release from our web site and take a look at it (Durangorafting.com). I would be happy to discuss the details of how we inform our guests if any one would like. my personal cell phone is 970-749-1388 and my email is Casey@durangorafting.com
. if you would like more information.
I do not know of a way to prepare someone for the feeling of being trunneled in a class V swim other than doing it. I don't know how to prepare someone for a car crash at 60 miles per hour either. Classs V outfitters do extensive paper work, lectures and practical evaluations of our guests tohelp them make an informed decision.
I believe the thousands of guests that we have taken on the Upper Animas are smart enough to make informed decisions and not have some one else impose their opinion on them.
Fifth: Mild to Wild had an experienced, strong crew on the Upper Animas with all the required safety gear. What happened was an accident. Accidents do happin in Class V Whitewater. The your men on that trip are struggling with guilt and other emotions and right now they need our support. If you want to debate theory call me, or you can come to our national America Outdoors meeting, or Our Colorado Rive Outfitters Meeting.
Colorado Division of Parks is conducting an investigation as is required by law. I think it would be great to wait for all the facts to be reported before people make a decision about what happened.
Sixth: I would like to put this loss in perspective. The Upper Animas has been run commercially for 22 years and this is the first commercial death.
If you live in a metro area and comute to and from work 20 minutes a day and once a year take a class V raft trip your are more likly to die in a car crash than on the class V river.
If you have a poor diet and do not exersize and take a class V trip once a year your are more likly to die from your lifestyle than on a Class V river.
Seventh: Should we stop running class V rivers? You can create a lifestyle with very few risks. I believe that most kayakers and skiers think that calculated risks are what make us alive. I also think I can make decisions for myself and not have someone decide for me how much risk I am willing to take.
I plan to continue running class V commercially. I know what Daryle would say. Daryle's close friends are struggling with this decision right now. I hope they decide to keep running.
I have a saying on my wall "All ships are safe in a harbor but that is not what ships are made for"
I will kayak the Upper Animas later this year and I will drink a beer to my friend Daryle. A man who died doing what he loved to do in one of the most magic places on earth.