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Old 06-15-2009   #1
Jackson, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1492
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 283
Encampment River drowning: Accident report

On Saturday, June 13, 2009 at approximately 11:45am, C-1 paddler Brian Stothart, 35, from Steamboat Springs and formerly Durango, drowned while running the upper Encampment River above Riverside/Encampment WY.

A party of five, three from CO and two from WY, had merged at the put-in parking lot and proceeded downriver. The flow on Saturday was ~700 at the put-in and rising, ~1,400 at the takeout and rising.

The group traveled without incident into the drops directly above Damnation Alley, eddy-hopping and boat-scouting everything. The run was clean of any major wood. In the rapid directly above the last 50-60yds of ‘boogie water’ leading to the get-out eddy to scout Damnation, the party had stopped in various eddies. Brian entered this rapid last, and flipped in the top of the drop, rolling successfully very quickly. As he rolled upright, he passed us by and became the lead boater going into the last steep tongue drop. The drop usually goes center, or left of center into a cycling eddy. Brian elected instead to attempt to make an apparent eddy behind the large rock on river right. Previous parties have placed a rock cairn on this rock as an indicator that Damnation is coming up.

Brian’s boat was completely perpendicular to the river as he went over the drop, facing right. He appeared to hit a large fan-rock and gain quite a bit of vertical height, then he dropped out of sight. No one saw Brian exit this eddy in his boat. One member of the group, probably the farthest upstream, saw Brian’s boat enter Damnation proper upside down after a considerable time delay (15-20 seconds). At this point, the rest of the party paddled the drop, either catching the dynamic eddy on the left and getting spun several times, or taking the center run and moving downstream quickly. There was no sign of Brian at all.

At this point, the time was noted, and an intense search was begun by the remaining 4 paddlers, from shore and in the water. At 45min elapsed search time and no sighting of Brian at the accident sight nor within ~1/2 mile downriver, the decision was made to send two boaters downriver while two remained to continue searching possible pin locations. At 90min elapsed search time, the two remaining boaters ended the shore line search and proceeded downstream.

After regrouping and continuing downriver, Brian’s boat was located and retrieved approximately 5-6 miles downriver and brought out of the river. The group continued to the takeout and contacted local search and rescue personnel. Daylight constraints prevented more than a cursory ground search of the lower river.

On Sunday, a group of search and rescue personnel and two of the paddlers proceeded upstream to the accident site with search tools. Additionally, a group of 5 paddlers, including myself, paddled downstream again from the put-in. At the accident site, intensive search measures were carried out, including probe poles and grapple hooks, as well as a helicopter dispatched from a military base in Cheyenne. The party of five paddlers made the decision to continue on downstream, with the intent of trying to take as much time as we could to search possible pin locations.

Less than 300yds downriver from the right corner at the end of Damnation proper, I pulled in to an eddy at random and ran over an empty lifejacket and yellow float bag.
A full 24hrs had passed, and the lifejacket and float bag had come loose and had traveled less than 1/2 mile downriver.

At this time, Monday 6/15 ~10pm, there has been no further reported recovery. Carbon County, WY officials plan to fly the river again on Tuesday, 6/16.

It is worth noting that this accident apparently had nothing to do with any visible wood in the drop. It is also worth noting that it is probably a good idea NOT to try and catch the eddy behind the large rock on the right side in the last drop above Damnation. The large boof/flake/fan rock is undercut and backed up by a large flat rock that could prove to be harmful to any paddler landing sideways on it in an exposed manner.

Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to Brian’s friends and family. I would have given anything for this to have turned out differently.

So many rivers, so little time..........
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Old 06-16-2009   #2
no tengo
mania's Avatar
Baytopia, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1876
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,768
Brian (Tiggy) was the nicest guy - just so friendly - this is a terrible loss for anyone who knew him and of course his beautiful family. Brian just C-1d the upper animas last week and impressed everyone. What a sad time. Thanks for doing all you could Wyo and crew. Rest in peace brother.

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Old 06-16-2009   #3
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 129
Very sorry to hear this news. Thoughts and prayers to his family, friends and those involved on Saturday.
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Old 06-16-2009   #4
TakemetotheRiver's Avatar
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 05
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 1,477
So sad. I met Brian on the Salt this year. He was very friendly and a very knowledgeable boater. He talked about getting the raft he had that day so he could take his young kids with him on the rivers he loved. My condolences to his family.
"There is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Look here! If you've really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?" -Wind in the Willows
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Old 06-16-2009   #5
Upper Florida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1977
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 21
My thoughts are with his family... So sorry.
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Old 06-16-2009   #6
freexbiker's Avatar
B.F.E., Wyoming
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 907
Sad to see somebody like this go...
Father, Boater and Buzzard

My Condolences
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Old 06-16-2009   #7
caspermike's Avatar
Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,507
My preyers go to the family, friends, and all involved. Hang in their Jon.
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Old 06-16-2009   #8
Durango, Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 390
RIP Brian.
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Old 06-16-2009   #9
jonny water's Avatar
Geologist, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 583
So sad to hear. My prayers go out to his family and friends.

Be safe.
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Old 06-16-2009   #10
Kayak/SUP Instructor
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The High Ground, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,325
I dont know what to say after reading this except I felt like I was there....I don't know what to say to you except to share my deepest sorrow for your loss. When I paddle this weekend I will be sure to not let the day pass before I tell a friend how much they mean to me.

Our prayers are with you and Brian's family.


"Let us cross the river to the other side and rest beneath the shade of the trees." ~ Last words of Thomas Jonathan ''Stonewall' Jackson
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