Here's my account and thoughts:
A group of four kayakers (3 from Arkansas and 1 from Missouri) had been boating for several days in CO. Started in the Arkansas Valley with runs on Royal Gorge, Numbers, Browns. Then moved up to Clear Creek with runs on Dumont, Coors Falls and Lower. On Tuesday we scouted the Blackrock section and on Thursday put-in at Kermits for an upper/blackrock combo.
We were having a good day and everyone was boating well. We stopped and scouted Blackrock rapid once again, ran it and contined down to the Narrows and got out to scout under the bridge. While scouting, two decided not to run the upper part of the rapid and we also talked to Redrock238 who had pulled over, after seeing our vehicles at the pullout with our shuttle drivers. James and I went back down to run the rapid. One of our group set up safety with a rope at Mr. Bill. Redrock238 was farther up the hill watching.
We made it down to the eddy just above Mr. Bill, I hopped out to look at it from river level and decided to not temp the hole. Got back in my boat in the small river right eddy between Mr. Bill and the next drop. Got my camera out and watched James run the right side of Mr. Bill and the next drop without problems. I put the camera back in my PFD and heard Redrock328 say the James was over. I peeled out ran headed downstream, shortly I saw him right side up near the left cliff. I continued downstream to catch up. As he dropped into the next wave/hole he flipped and attemped several rolls throughout the remainder of the rapid. (5 to 7?) I kept charging forward and eventually got downstream of him in anticipation of a swim. I was thinking something was wrong (blown skirt, knee out of thigh brace or something else complicating the rolls) as he was more struggling for breaths than really rolling.
At the bottom of the rapid, he fell over from his last roll attempt and almost immediately the paddle floated away, I thought 'ok watch for him', then no boat wiggle or visible helmet. Panic started to set in. I charged his boat yelling his name and hoping he would grab my bow and roll up. After a couple of bumps, I noticed he was hanging limp and then went into full bulldozer mode to push him toward the right bank. I noticed the other person in our group running down the guardrail and motioned for him to come down and continued pushing James' boat. James finally stopped in the shallow water about 25 yards above the island, the current carried me a few more yards down before I could stop, just infront of the log in front of the island. I hopped out and shoved my boat into the log and scrambled back upstream.
The other member of our group had made it down the embankment and out to James at the same time I was able to scramble back up to him. We rolled him up, he was blue and unresponsive. We quickly administered a couple of chest compressions and checked for pulse, then grabbed him and the boat and scrambled the 15-20 yards over to the bank. Redrock238 had made it down to us just as we got him to the bank. The three of us administered a couple rounds of CPR then James started showing signs of shallow breathing and light pulse. Shortly after, we signaled on of our shuttle drivers to call 911, which was already in progress by flagging down some passing motorists who headed downstream for service.
We continued to work to stablize him as another boater joined in and followed shortly by the first rescue personnel. It was suspected at the time that he had a head injury in conjunction with the drowning. Work continued to further stabilze him and then lift him up the steep embankment and on to the hospital.
Thankfully all worked out and his head trauma was minor and didn't get a lot of water in his lungs. He was released about 24 hours after arriving at the ER. Hard to say, but I think it was 2 minutes or less from the time he flipped over last to the time we got him over and the first chest compression.
After looking at the little bit of video from our shuttle driver, it appears James tried to eddy out on river right a little below the drop below Mr. Bill, just before the river cuts back to the left toward left cliff. He slipped out of the back of the leaky eddy and flipped hard into the rock on the bank. He rolled up and made it a little farther downstream, which is the point I first saw him. I think this is the hit that knowed him loopy but no out. He ran out of breath and passed out downstream after the roll attempts.
Thanks for all who helped!