Man dies after jump into ‘Punchbowl’ near Aspen
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
ASPEN ” A young man from Longmont died after jumping into the Roaring Fork River east of Aspen on Independence Pass, in an area locally known as the “Punchbowl.”
His name is being withheld until his family can be notified. He was approximately 23 years old.
Friends on scene said the young man jumped into the Punchbowl a little after 4 p.m. They witnessed him being sucked down by the water and surfacing occasionally while gasping for air.
A member of the group attempted to go into the water to rescue the victim but also experienced “whirlpool-like” conditions.
When friends finally removed the victim from the water, about eight minutes later, he wasn’t breathing, and they began to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
The Punchbowl area does not get cell phone reception, so the friends were unable to call out. However, a White River National Forest ranger happened to be nearby and radioed for help.
A Pitkin County Sheriff’s deputy was the first emergency responder to arrive, at about 4:39 p.m., quickly followed by Aspen Volunteer Fire Department members.
Mountain Rescue Aspen was able to respond particularly quickly, according to Pitkin County Deputy George Kremer, as the group was out on a training climb on South Maroon Peak, and had just helped an injured member of their team hike out.
Aspen Ambulance and Forest Service personnel also responded.
A defibrillator was immediately applied to the victim, but no shockable rhythm could be found, Kremer said.
Rescue personnel then executed a high-angle carry, said Kremer, using ropes, to move the man up to the ambulance.
The victim had been washed down to an eddy about 20 yards downstream of the Punchbowl, and so he had to be carried out across a piece of terrain that gained about 35 feet of elevation over approximately 35 yards, Kremer said.
The young man was pronounced dead while en route to Aspen Valley Hospital.
The man’s friends told Pitkin County Deputy Tricia Louthis that they were all planning to jump into the Punchbowl Sunday afternoon, and that this young man had gone first.
According to Kremer, the Punchbowl has been a popular place for swimmers since Aspenites were cutting ice out of the nearby ice caves, back in Aspen’s mining days. When Kremer’s father came to Aspen in 1918, he often went up there to picnic.
In the late 1970s and 1980s, Kremer says he remembers a rope swing up there on a tree that swung people out beyond a dangerous rock at the spot. The tree fell about 20 years ago, he said.
According to Kremer, the high water in the Punchbowl right now is aerated, making it hard for people to swim. Inside the Punchbowl, the water re-circulates, pulling people down, then popping them back up, he explained. He added that the water is so white, it can be difficult to tell which way is up.
“It’s still a very dangerous place to play if you’re not familiar with this area,” said Kremer.
Although authorities think the Roaring Fork River has peaked, the water is still very high, and it is easy for people to underestimate its power, Kremer said.
The Punchbowl has also been the site of injuries during low water. In 2004, a young man from El Jebel suffered a compound fracture of his femur after jumping into the Punchbowl.