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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — A local veteran river runner is issuing a word of caution about recreating on the local waterways after he and his party of rafters witnessed an incident last weekend that could have easily ended in tragedy.

Jim Easton was leading one of three rafts on a staff outing Sunday afternoon for the Valley View Hospital Youth Recovery Center where he works, when he and his crew suddenly found themselves in the middle of a rescue operation on the lower Roaring Fork River.

As they were putting in just above the Westbank Bridge shortly after 1 p.m., two private rafts, occupied by four adults and three young children between them, floated by. A few seconds later, one of the rafts washed up against a pier on the nearby bridge and flipped.

Its occupants, an adult and two young children no older than 7, later identified as a grandfather and his two grandchildren, fell into the river and were swept away in the rapid current.

“As they swung around the pier, the boat flipped and they were in the water like that,” Easton said. “The two children had life jackets, but they were really loose, which is not good. The grandfather did not have a life jacket at all.”

As best as they could tell, none of the occupants in the other raft had life jackets either, including a 2-year-old child, he said.

“It took us about a minute or so to catch up with them,” said Easton, who paddled up beside the struggling victims in the water while the others in his raft were able to pull them in. One of the crew, Jim Wright, is a trained EMT and was able to assist the victims to make sure they were OK. Although quickly becoming hypothermic, they were unharmed, Easton said.

“The people in the other raft were unable to help, and if there hadn't been anyone there to help they might have all drowned,” said Easton, who has been rafting for about 20 years.

Worried that the other raft might flip as well, just before cemetery rapids, they had one of the women pass the 2-year-old into one of the VVH parties rafts.

“Once the other boat flipped over, they were pretty scared,” Easton said. Once they got to a safe point, they pulled to the side of the river and called the authorities to advise them of the runaway raft that was still floating down the river.

Part of the problem was that the rafts the family was using, which Easton described as “small, plastic life boat” type of crafts, were not appropriate for that stretch of river, he said.

“You really need to have the right kind of boat to be on these rivers, especially when the current is as strong as it is now,” he said, noting that the Roaring Fork in that stretch was running at about 6,000 cubic feet per second that day.

“And, you always need to wear life jackets,” he said. “The first thing that made this so critical was that we had a guy in the river without a life jacket.”

Dr. Paul Salmen, who was also part of Easton's rafting party Sunday and witnessed the incident, seconded Easton's warnings.

“It was pretty dramatic situation where we had a family in big trouble, and really because they were woefully unprepared to be on the river,” he said. “I think it's good to alert the community to the fact that the Roaring Fork River is not a water park, lazy river ride right now. It is a potentially dangerous situation, and people need to be far better prepared to be on the river.”

Colorado does not have an age restriction for children to be on rivers, although many private whitewater guide services have do have age limits and offer age-appropriate trips for families with younger children



This story just irritates me on how stupid people are and uninformed, thank god for the rescuers and there smart thinking. This story was in the GW post, Today. Good job everyone and glad everything turned out safely.
 

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I can't imagine taking kids down any river without a life jacket. Mine put theirs on before we unload the raft, and keep them on until the raft is back out of the water. There are a lot of stupid people out there...

Kudos and thanks to the rescuers, for their quick thinking, and for taking care of the kids.
 

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Saw the same thing same place yesterday except they missed the bridge pylon but the kids also had no jackets. In retrospect guess I should have ratted them out to law enforcement.
 

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It's all about education. We, as the informed educated boater, need to let the general public know how to behave on the river. I am not saying we need to be police, just that when we see something going on that is potentially dangerous, we let people know. That goes for tubers, river surfers and the policeman that is trying to assist the SWR crew, but is waist deep in the river with no jacket or helmet.
As for kids, anytime mine is near the river, boat or not, he now wears his vest. Keep it safe and Hope everybody is having a good holiday.
 

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Well done to Jim.
Had a less serious incident happen last year on the San Juan - older guy, alone, braces on both knees, canoeing with a trolling motor and 12V car battery at 3K. Got wrapped on a rock outcrop, we were able to help him off and MADE him join our group for the next two days. Only thing that really pissed us off was that he asked a commercial guide at Sand Isl. if the river was ok for a canoe, and said he was told "no problem."
Yes - it is up to us who have experience and knowledge to educate those less fortunate. Being polite but firm, speaking with confidence and making sure folks know that you have their best interests in mind are key. The river is not an amusement park ride, but too many folks see it that way.

Common sense isn't all that common.
 

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A TWO YEAR OLD?

Come on...I hope you gave them a good amount of info about how stupid they were. Was the person leading their raft/s experienced? And who in the hell would think thats ok?
 

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Great - Darwin Award candidates about to fuck it up for the rest of us.

Its going to be a tragic incident involving of people like this, getting on swollen rivers in pool toys, but referred to as "rafters" by the media, who are going to get more regulation or river closures imposed on those of us who take the effort to do it safely.

I wholeheartedly agree with Brendo on the education issue and that it applies to:

tubers, river surfers and the policeman that is trying to assist the SWR crew, but is waist deep in the river with no jacket or helmet.
I try to use a tiered approach starting with a friendly hello and chat, then assess their level of awareness and try to educate them from there as appropriate. For example, this morning I saw some folks airing up inner tubes at the local gas station. Knowing they were probably heading to Clear Creek which is ripping right now, I walked up and started a conversation with them ("hi, where you guys going tubing?"). While chatting, I was relieved to see whitewater PFDs and helmets in the back of their SUV, then discussed some hazards I'd seen on the creek they were heading to, the need to scout/portage a certain drop because of wood, a keeper hole, etc. The leader seemed to be aware of whitewater safety issues and so there seemed to be no need to take it to the next level ("...you know, the creek's really swift and dangerous right now and you don't look like you're equipped to float it safely...").

I know we don't have a responsibility to try to look out for idiots and try to police their activities, but its certainly in our best interest to prevent future tragedies that will affect how the public perceives whitewater boating.

Good luck all,

-Andy
 

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Between what I have seen in Pueblo and two young kids being tied to their boats and almost hanging up on the bridge in Salida, this really isnt a surprise. I would say it happens everyday in the summer somewhere on the river.
 

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Seriously? Do people really think that river/creek whitewater is akin to Waterworld? I've done my fair share of stupid shit in my life, but if and when I have kids, I will hopefully not put them in that kind of danger.

Are PFD's optional? Only if you want to drown. Period.

Glad everyone is okay and thanks to the people who had the knowledge and balls to do the rescue.
 

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I find this scary and extremely sad for the kids involved, really!! Unfortunately, it is an education gap. Those of us who run the rivers in all different types of ways are knowledgeable, I've fished 2 older dudes outta the water whose duckies had flipped on that very stretch of water, late June, near hypothermic ... emergency crew called, dudes taken to the er. It's not something to take lightly, but how do you educate? then again, seriously, young kids without lifevests? how much intelligence is needed to ascertain pfd on river is a good idea??? my 2 year old comes with us when we r rafting, but good grief, he doesn't get outta the car without being suited up!! Perhaps it is our responsibility to help educate and just talk it up with everyone, cuz u know the old saying ... "there are 2 kinds of guides, those who have flipped and those who will flip" ... been there done that -- it puts ur ego in check!! :)
 

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Andy H. made note of the fine line an experienced boater must take when trying to assess skill level and ultimately try to give good advice to those who lack common sense/good judgement. Alot of us experienced boaters have been in this situation. Hopefully using one's knowledge of the river and some tact when talking to the idiot about to put on a river obviously beyond his/her/their skill and/or equipment level will lead to some common sense being instilled into the idiot's head. But sometimes even the best laid plans don't come to fruition and that's when we as experienced boaters (although not legally obligated) have to do our part to help out the idiots and show the rest of the world that whitewater can be enjoyed safely when one is educated and possesses the right skills and equipment.
 

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Last night I saw a TV report here in GJ about "rafters" needing to be rescued and it turns out they were in tubes. Uh, those would be called "tubers", not rafters. And there was another group last week on Walmart "rafts" that were the equivalent of pool toys and they had "forgotten" their life jackets. Unfortunately, no matter how much education you try to do, there are always going to dumb people out there and as Andy H said, the media makes no distinction between idiots who are pitifully unprepared for moving water and those of us who have worked for years to obtain the equipment and skills necessary.
 

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I think it helps if we can get the word out to the media. What happened to the gal from the Fox station in Denver who was kind of doing a rafting series? Is she still around? Maybe AW or a local group or something could help with some PR: "Don't be a gaper" or something like that...
 

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the durango story is even stupid-er! 15 year olds? i might be a tad protective, but i don't let my 15 year old run the river on her kayak, on our raft, on a tube, on a duckie, on a river board (get the drift) without an adult -- a smart adult, with river experience, at that!
 

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I lost count of the number of tubers on Filter Plant without pfd's, most come out with red welts from running into rocks and branches with only swim suits on. Usually on the shuttle back up you find many walking along the road barefoot because 1.) their tube popped or 2.) they scared the crap out of themselves getting tossed in some of the small holes on the run.

To quote Napoleon, "Freakin' Idiot(s)!"
 

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So the newspaper referred to the incident as a "rafting expedition" ?!
Since when do tubers count as rafters? Most people are just so ignorant when it comes to the definition of rafter, rafting, etc. Please don't misconstrue my words here - I do love tubers, but really only when they are cooked properly (i.e. baked, fried, mashed, etc)
 

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PFD'sOnTheRoaringFork?

I Live Here And Float Here. There is an almost Non-exsistance of PFD's on this River! I've seen watched again and again countless numbers of people,10-16 in a raft with NO PFD's Mom Dad and the Kids out for a good time. Or even worse,Just the Kids!
Then there are the Fishin'Guy's who I Guess if You Own Your Own Boat??? There is NO NEED TO WEAR FLOATATION? I Say this because I have asked on several occasion," Hey Do you have PFD's"?
The answer is usually, This is My Boat I Don 't Have To Wear One"
I'm Not making that up, I hear it EveryDay.
I Guess if you own your own boat,You get a Free Pass on Drowning?
See Ya In The Papers.
 

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You people need to settle down! You all act like novices who just graduated from Swift Water Rescue Class. This behavior has been going on for ever and will continue.

Calmly help and calmly suggest. Don't freak out and call everyone idiots. We all have talents and nobody is better than anyone else.
 

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You're right, they definitely have better nun-chuck skills than I do, I just wish they'd hold onto their damn shoes especially since half the time they end up walking the highway barefoot.
 
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