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From the Cortez Journal
[So sad. Condolences to family and friends.]

Dolores R. rafter drowns
Flagstaff, Ariz., woman dies after inflatable raft flips in rough spring runoff

Steve Grazier
Journal Staff Writer

A Flagstaff, Ariz., woman was found dead at midday Monday after an inflatable raft she was riding flipped in rough water Sunday on the Upper Dolores River.

Rescuers and divers discovered Jeanne Haylett, 40, at about 1 p.m. Monday in proximity to where the boat capsized north of Dolores, according to Montezuma County Sheriff Gerald Wallace. The cause of death appears to be drowning.

"We just retrieved the body between Breanna Lane and Erik Lane just off of (Colorado) Highway 145," Wallace said minutes after the recovery. "She was found right about where the boat went over, which is a rarity."

The body of Haylett was discovered close to 10 feet off the river's shoreline in a pool of water about 3-feet deep, Wallace said. The San Miguel County dive team and deputies from the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office recovered the body.

Haylett's raft capsized in the river at approximately 5:17 p.m. Sunday. Lt. Ted Meador, spokesman for the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office, said the water craft was launched near mile marker 12 of Colorado Highway 145 north of Dolores. After floating 200 to 300 yards downriver, the raft overturned when it came in contact with a swirling pool.

Sunday evening, search and rescue personnel found Haylett's life preserver downstream from the site where the raft flipped, Meador said.

A second occupant in the raft was able to swim to the river bank and is fine, Meador said.

Foul play and/or alcohol are not suspected as factors in the accident, Meador said. He noted that boaters, swimmers and anglers should be cautious about cold, high water in area rivers and lakes during the spring, which is a peak time for mountain snow runoff.

Wallace suggested that boaters should swim a back stroke or breast stroke to shore and allow the life preserver to keep them afloat if they ever capsize in a river that is running swiftly. He said when people try to walk their way out of the water they might get caught in debris along the river bottom, which is dangerous.

The Upper Dolores River's flow above McPhee was listed at approximately 2,448 cubic-feet per second, according to the Dolores Water Conservancy District's most recent Web site update Thursday. One cfs is equivalent to a flow of 449 gallons per minute.

Mike Preston, general manager of the water district, has said a typical river flow during the non-runoff season ranges mostly between 200 and 500 cfs.

Sunday's accident is the second incident this month in which a boater capsized in the Dolores River. The body of James Vavra, who was 45, remains unfound after his canoe flipped May 8 in the river at about the same location as Haylett was lost.

Agencies that assisted in the search for Haylett included the Dolores Fire Department, Montezuma United Search & Rescue team, the San Miguel County dive team and the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office. Family members of Haylett drove up from Flagstaff late Sunday and helped with the search, Meador said.

Reach Steve Grazier at [email protected].
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