Mighty Colorado strips men of raft, skin, pride and clothes
VAIL – Thomas Williams, in what he now describes simply as “stupidity,” tried to tackle the upper Colorado River on Sunday with his two roommates in a raft they bought from Wal-Mart.Stocked with a couple of 12-packs – instead of a guide or lifejackets – the 19- and 20-year-olds headed down the Class III rapids between Radium and Rancho Del Rio. Whitewater rivers are rated from Class I to VI, which is unrunnable.The trio’s raft flipped, and Williams and his friends plunged underwater. Williams was trapped, but his roommates were able to swim to the side. “I was under for so long I just blacked out. I didn’t realize I was being dragged along by the river,” Williams said. A couple of hundred feet down the river from where Williams went under, a guide from Red Tail Rafting was taking a couple of friends and his dogs for an afternoon cruise. Tony Jameson, who has been with Red Tail for 10 years, saw the raft turn over and rushed to rescue Williams. He pulled Williams to the bank, but none of the boys escaped without injuries. Jameson said rocks had scraped the men from the knees down. Williams suffered a hairline fracture on his ankle and an upset stomach from swallowing so much water.The force of the river also stripped them of most of their clothes. One lost his trunks and underwear, which he dove in to salvage, Jameson said. Jameson retrieved three shoes from the river – one for each victim. “They were in over their heads with no lifejackets,” Jameson said. “You need a lifejacket, even when you’re rafting in flat, calm water. You never know what’s ahead.” Another guide had warned the boys about rafting without lifejackets before they put in, Jameson said. Williams said he is grateful for Jameson’s actions and vows not to raft unprepared again.Still, adventure is nothing new to Williams, who said he also seeks thrills skateboarding, snowboarding and bungee jumping.”If I didn’t do that stuff I’d be a lazy couch potato,” he said.
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