Animas deaths - Mountain Buzz

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Old 06-20-2005   #1
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Animas deaths

This is from the Durango Herald..... sad and it sucks

June 19, 2005

Animas claims local river guide
Witness questions company's procedures

By Jesse Harlan Alderman
Herald Staff Writer

A local rafting guide known for his robust sense of humor and a tourist from Texas were identified by authorities Saturday as the men who died on a commercial rafting trip on the upper Animas River.

Darrel Bogenrief of Durango was about 25 years old and Scott Licona of Lumberton, Texas, was 30, said Butch Knowlton, La Plata County's director of emergency preparedness.

Friends notified Bogenrief's wife of his death Friday after the accident. Knowlton spoke with Licona's parents in Texas on Saturday morning. Licona was not married.

Bogenrief had been a commercial rafting guide with Durango-based Mild to Wild Rafting for at least five years. Local rafting guides said he was renowned for his disarming jokes and his fondness for the challenging upper Animas River.

"He would always ask to go on those trips," said Casey Lynch, owner of Mountain Waters Rafting in Durango. "He loved it up there. When trips went up there, he'd say, 'Send me, send me.'"

Lynch said not only was Bogenrief a capable and certified guide, he was one of the best in Durango.

"If you took all the guides in Colorado and lined them up side-by-side," he said, "Darrel was definitely in the top 10 percent, probably the top 5 or 6 percent."

Four investigators from the Colorado State Parks department came to Durango on Saturday to interview Mild to Wild guides and survivors.

State law requires an investigation whenever there is a fatality, Knowlton said.

High water this year has led to treacherous conditions on rivers. There have been other reported deaths in Colorado this season, Knowlton said.

Two people have died on separate commercial rafting trips since Memorial Day in New Mexico.

The two men died Friday after a raft guided by Bogenrief flipped in the second drop of Ten Mile Rapids, a long stretch of turbulent whitewater north of Needleton in San Juan County.

There were five people in the boat, said Kenneth Blazzard, a tourist from St. George, Utah, who witnessed the accident from another Mild to Wild raft.

Bogenrief briefly turned the raft upright before falling out, Blazzard said. No one made it back into the raft, he said. Three survivors made it to the banks of the river, while Bogenrief and Licona were quickly sent downriver by the racing rapids.

Blazzard's raft, along with a safety raft handled by a single Mild to Wild guide, hurriedly paddled toward the men, leaving behind two other boats navigating the upper portion of the rapids. When the rafts caught up with the fallen rafters, they were likely already dead.

"They weren't breathing," Blazzard said. "They had no pulse and they were as blue as you can get."

A Mild to Wild guide and other members of the trip performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on both men, Blazzard said.

Nearly an hour passed before a Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge railroad motorcar operator came upon the scene and reported the emergency at 1:34 p.m., Blazzard said. Mild to Wild's cell phone was upriver with the other boats, he said.

The bodies were put on a track car and taken to Rockwood for inspection by Kristina Maxfield, San Juan County coroner.

On Saturday, she said the cause of death was not yet known. An autopsy will be performed Monday in Durango.

Back in Durango, grief counselors from the Southwest Colorado chapter of the American Red Cross were made available to guides and rafters from Friday's trip.

Services were offered to three friends of Licona, but the group left for Texas shortly after the accident.

At other rafting companies, trips to the upper Animas River were canceled or postponed, partially out of respect for Bogenrief and partially because outfitters said water levels may be too high to safely run Ten Mile Rapids.

South West Whitewater in Durango canceled a trip Saturday and Outlaw Rivers and Jeep Tours postponed an excursion for guides only to the northern reaches of the river.

Both companies said the cancellations are only temporary and commercial trips will continue on the upper Animas.

Witness questions company's procedures

By Jesse Harlan Alderman
Herald Staff Writer

A raft drops over the lip of Ten Mile Rapids like a fallingelevator. Then, for nearly one mile there is continuous whitewater – aminefield of harrowing Class 5 rapids.

"It’s like doing your first double black diamond,"said Casey Lynch, owner of Mountain Waters Rafting Inc. "In the upperAnimas when high water hits like this, there are not pools or breaks. It’sdifficult to scout because of length and difficult to maneuver."

Hardly the ideal run for a novice. But on Friday, KennethBlazzard, who had rafted only once, nearly 30 years ago, found himself tumblingfuriously over Ten Mile Rapids, as his boat screamed downriver behind two fallenboaters.

After La Plata County officials released the names Saturday ofDarrel Bogenrief and Scott Licona, two rafters killed in the whirling water,Blazzard wondered why Mild to Wild Rafting allowed beginners to float suchrapids.

"I bought my tickets over the Internet for something for meand my boys to do over Father’s Day," he said. "I had no idea theriver was this raging. If I had, I would not have signed up for this."

Blazzard and two sons came from St. George, Utah, to raft theriver. Blazzard does not believe the Durango-based outfitter was negligent, butsaid he was shocked that the river was so high and the rapids so advanced.

"I printed out their papers and it doesn’t say anythingabout experience," he said.

But Lynch, who was acting as the sole spokesman for the company,said Mild to Wild – like all commercial rafting outfitters in town – screensparticipants for trips on the upper Animas section to ensure the company onlytakes experienced rafters.

"This is a trip for advanced rafting folks," he said.

He said Mild to Wild talks to clients on the phone to make surethey understand the risks involved. He also said the company conducts ariver-safety class the night before a trip on a milder section of the river inDurango.

Blazzard said his group practiced river commands in the waterthe night before and discussed what to do in case a boat overturns. It wasduring the instruction that he and his sons became apprehensive.

"They talked a great deal about what to do, not so much if,but when you get out of the boat," Blazzard said. "It almost made mefeel scared because they said at one time or another somebody is going to fallout of the boat."

Blazzard said Mild to Wild did not test swimming skills orre-create a flipped-boat scenario the night before Friday’s trip.

Lynch said potential rafters are typically asked to get out ofthe boat, swim and then climb back into the raft. This is done to gauge acustomer’s swimming ability and experience, he said.

While shaken by Friday’s incident, Blazzard said he would notgo so far as to call Mild to Wild negligent. However, he said its screening andsafety preparation should be intensified given how unusually high the waterlevels are this summer.

"Training and everything they did in past years seems morethan adequate," he said. "But we’ve had a drought in those years.This summer is completely different."

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Old 06-20-2005   #2
GWS, Colorado
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I am very sorry for the tourist's and guide's family, friends, and communities for their loss.

I guided on the Upper Animas for 7 years during the 90's and the fact that there have not been more deaths on that strecth is a testiment to the guides and companies who run trips up there. The river is not the hardest out there but it is very unforgiving.

I think that it is comendable that Casey Lynch (who owns a raft company that competes with the one that is the subject of the Herald article) has put any competative differnces aside and is acting as spokesperson for Mild to Wild.

I was not present at the scene and have only heard accounts from the paper and some other local guides. The paper stated that the "saftey" for the trip was a solo rafter. I have both a raft guide and safey kayaker on the upper. In my years of guiding I saw many companies use saftey rafts. Often the saftey raft is a rookie upper guide who needs to get some river miles and often there is no-one on the raft to assist. The article in the paper did not state the experience of the saftey rafter but it did state he/she was solo.

What type of saftey can a solo rafter provide? In my mind there is no substitute for a competent saftey kayaker. The Upper A. is an easy run for an experienced kayaker. A kayaker can eddie hop 99% of the river. A kayaker has the speed to move from bank to bank and to chase down the downtream swimmer. A kayaker can get a grabloop to a swimmer and is at the swimers level to shout words of encouragment and instructions on how to proceed. On the other hand a raft is much slower, can't eddie out as easily, can't speed downstream as quick, and in general can't offer the same level of saftey as a kayaker.

Furthermore, when the rafter gets to no-name and/or broken bridge the rafter can't walk the rapid and perch themselfs on a rock at the bottom ready to slide in and get swimmers. A raft either needs to tend to the oars to stay in the eddie or tie up so the rafter can be at the ready with a throw bag, either way the rafter is limited.

If any of the guides, managers or owners of the companies who run trips on the Upper are reading this, I encourage you to stop and think about the pro's and con's of rafter vs. kayaker.

There are many more great kayakers who could run saftey on the upper in Durango than there are raft guides who can run saftey, especially when you take into consideration that the best raft guides will be on the trip with customers.

To clarify for all those reading this, I am in NO WAY saying that the outcome would have been different if a kayaker had been on the trip instead of a rafter.
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Old 06-20-2005   #3
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Take your bullshit somewhere else! This is hard time for lots of us and we do not need your comments on what happened or what could have been done. Just leave it alone and do not point fingers.

Darrel was a fantastic person and a great boater that will be missed.

I'm pourin' a 40 for you hommie.
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Old 06-20-2005   #4
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There's no need to lash out at Mut, particularly since it's not bullshit. He's talking from experience, and he's entitled to speak his mind in order to hopefully prevent tragedy in the future. I'm sure you're hurting, but Chris knows a lot of past and present guides and is simply looking out for a community that is very close to him. It's not like he's armchair quarterbacking without any frame of reference.

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Old 06-20-2005   #5
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Read the post hotshot. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone. I too knew Darrel and it is tragic that he and his customer were killed.

Go ahead and call it bullshit, drink your 40 and continue to surf this site, I'm sure that will help raise the level of saftey that is practiced on the upper.
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Old 06-20-2005   #6
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Ok, it is not bullshit. Sorry. I do think your timing could be better. Comments or recommendations like that should be made to Alex, Casey, Rory and Dana not in a kayaking forum where your post make the rafting company look neglegant. In hindsite it is easy to see that a kayaker could have been able to help. I do agree with what you are saying but I know the guides involved did all they could to help Darrel and the custy.

Pour a little 40 for Darrel and remember the great person/boater he was.
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Old 06-20-2005   #7
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I agree with Mut on his post. How should one change the timing because it has been a sore spot on the Buzz before. Is there an official time to wait before posting or what?

I do think this forum is the appropriate place for discussion on what went wrong and what could have been done differently. Look at the other posts this year about the near death on the Poudre and the death on SBC. It was discussed at length in multiple posts and nobody got all pissed off about it and took it as slams.

I too am sorry about the losses but now is the time to talk about it and get it out in the open.

My 2 cents...
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Old 06-20-2005   #8
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My far from humble opinion.

I strongly suggest that if you offend easily and are very close to this tragedy you not continue reading this post.

This is post is neither designed to trivialize what happened, nor is it designed to add further hurt to those that may be grieving a very close personal loss. It is merely my opinion of this situation and others like it that do not end in tragedy such as this. I speak for nobody but myself and do not claim otherwise. That being said, I am certain that while there are more than one who will read this thread who knows Darrel and could speak to the person that he was and his qualifications as a guide, I doubt that anyone who knew the other person who died would venture across this forum. He, Scott Licona, and the issue of negligence is what prompted me to register and speak my mind.

My knowledge is based upon the fact that I am a raft guide myself and have experience on a few different rivers with strictly paddle boats, stern frames and center frames. The issue of a safety raft versus a safety kayak was brought up and is a very legitimate one. Calling an oar rig with a single occupant in class IV/V water on a commercial trip a safety boat is a joke. Period. Is that the issue of negligence? No. The issue of negligence is a company taking people's money who have neither the skills nor the experience necessary and putting them on class IV+/V rivers. I have never and will never guide class IV+/V rivers with customers. Nor will guides I know who's level of experience ranges from several years to almost three decades. I would not even run class VI+/V rivers with guides in my raft unless they have more than a couple of years experience. I understand that this is an issue of personal choice and that there are plenty of very skilled class V customer guides who have many succesful trips under their belt with many more to come in the future. Keep in mind that there are plenty of experienced class V rafters who would not even consider taking unexperienced people in such water as well. To me, taking customers through such waters is the equivalent of a class V kayaker taking a class II/III boater through Gore.

You can have a customer sign all of the waiver forms you want, spend as much time with safety talks and paddle talks, throw them into a class II river for a swim, but the reality is, unless they have gotten thrashed and had the fear of god put into them from a bad day on the river they have no clue what they are getting themselves into if something goes wrong. Sorry, but the phrase, and I quote, "Wild Whitewater, Adrenaline Rushes!" does not do justice to the very real and very mortal danger of classVI+/V water especially to tourists that have no fucking clue what those adreniline rushes entail when the shit hits the fan and how high the risk of their death is. It is a marketing phrase to make money - to sell a trip. And yes, it is most defintirely is negligence in my opinion. I understand the concept of personal choice and am not saying that a customer should not be entitled to such choices, but the reality is that customers end up for one reason or another in even class III water have not a clue as to the power of water and lack the experience to keep their wits about them during a swim - they react out of fear.

I take very seriously the safety of the people who are paying me to guide them down a river and for me, a major component of that safety is not putting people who have not the experience or knowledge to be on such water in situations they are unprepared for and unexpecting of that can take their life away very easily and takes away the life's of experts as well. And most importantly, I place this onesis upon the owners of companies that take people's money to put them in such a situation based upon the fact that the customers do not have a clue of what they are in for when all does not go according to plan.

Rivers kill. Class VI/V rivers kill very experienced boaters and very experienced swimmers. Boaters that have the experience to boat such water, have swam such water and have assisted in rescues in such water. For those of you class V customer guides that think I am a dick for criticizing commercial trips on such rivers, well, I ask you to look around and ask all of the boaters here who have been boating for years to list the names of their friends, their very competant friends, who have died on the river and then ask yourself if your customers really understand the gravity of a bad day at work for you. If you want to be a class V customer guide, that is your choice and you are certainly free to make it, but you are kidding yourself if you think that the boat full of people you are hoping for a tip from and your boss just sold a trip to with catchy marketing phrases truly understands how dangerous such water is. They are clueless, otherwise they would not be paying you to take them down a river and they have no business on such water under the guise that the rafting industry operates.

If I said I was sorry for offending anybody here I would be lying. My condolances most defintiely do go out to all that were affected by this tragedy. I have no doubt that Darrel understood the risks of what he was doing and made his choice, as we all do, with that knowledge in hand. I do have very serious doubt, however, that Scott understood the risks of what he was doing - he paid for "Wild Whitewater, Adrenaline Rushes!", an amusement park ride.
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Old 06-21-2005   #9
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it kinda sucks all-around...

What I am wondering is if they were wearing anything remotely resembling protective insulation. The Upper A is notoriusly bitter cold. I would liken falling into it without a wetsuit or drysuit to falling in the North Atlantic or Bering Sea. You'd go into hypothermic shock in around a minute or so.

The rule of thumb I apply for the Upper A is that if you can swim comfortably in Smelter without protective layers, you need a full wetsuit for Upper A, if you need a wetsuit in Smelter, you need a drysuit in Upper A.

It's hard losing a guide, hard for all the liveries when a tourista bites it too. Having met Darrel once, he seemed to me to be a very competent guide.
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Old 06-21-2005   #10
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I have been fortunate enough to boat with Rory and his peers on a number of recreational occaisions. They are exemplary people and boaters. They have pulled me and several of my friends out exceptionally. They've al lived on the river for a number of years and know there shit. Class V boating in heavy water is action / reaction when things go wrong. I know they did their best, and I know it was quick and decissive. I also know that if I wanted to have a rafting experience anywhere, I would be very comfortable with any one of their guidesat the oars.

Facts will come out, and we will all learn from them, but have no doubt that everyone on this crew were people who made heavy sacrafices to live a life style where they are on the water every day, and should be considered in the very elite as relates to safety and ability.

My heart has been torn out. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you on the Durango crew. Does anyone have contact information for family?

Ken Canada
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