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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.
 

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no tengo
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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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Very sorry to hear this news. Thoughts and prayers to his family, friends and those involved on Saturday.
 

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Kjirsten
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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.
 

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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.

Scott
 

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My deepest condolences to Brian's family and those that were with him that day on the river. I helped Brian with his new raft setup back in February and he was such a great person to work with. He was very excited about his new rig and having some time to play this summer. He left our parking lot and was headed straight to the Salt, with a smile on his face. Brian was one of the customers that you do not forget. He was excited, energetic, and knowledgeable. He always had many positive posts on the Buzz and he loved talking to people about running rivers. As much as this community will miss him I can not help but keep his family in my thoughts. If anyone has contact with them, please tell them that the boating community is thinking of them.

Sincerely,
Zach Svoboda
 

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Thanks WyoPdlr1 for your efforts to find Tigger. Others in the party showed us photos of the site and gave us the first hand report. Tigger had been my main paddling buddy for a number of years and was like a little brother to me. He was a witty, brilliant guy with a passion for paddling, but lived for his family. Thanks everyone else for the kind words.
 

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Just found out today about this terrible news. The boat has lost great person and enthusiastic paddler, stoked on life and his family. My thoughts are with his wife and children.
 

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I just met Brian at our recent slalom race and then a few days later on the stretch downtown. He was one friendly, happy guy and stoked to be paddling.

Steamboat lost a good man.
 

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This is Brian's or Tigger's Mom. To all who knew Brian, thank you for the kind words and support. Our plans are to take a helicopter tomorrow morning from Steamboat Springs to Encampment, to search for Brian.
Please continue to pray for a safe recovery, and anyone who will be floating the river please keep an eye out for anything that might help in the search and rescue. We have recovered his lifejacket and float bag, please if you find anything let the Sheriff or myself know.
Tiggers Mom
 

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Tiggersmom, my heart breaks for you. I didn't know Brain, but a loss to the boating community is felt by all. My sincere condolences and prayers.
 

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To Brian's family, my thoughts and prayers are with you. I boated Northgate with Brian last spring. He was such a cool guy. He had driven over from Steamboat, alone, and simply walked up and asked if he could come with us. He was as happy and as friendly as folks come. He took some pictures of us that day. At Narrow Falls, he gave me his camera and had me film him going through it. He wanted his family to see him boating. I've watched the video several times today. I only knew him for that day, but that was enough to know that he defined "salt of the earth". If he touched me in that brief moment in time, I'm sure he touched the lives of many. Rest in peace friend. We will think of you often.

Debbie
 
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