Rafter dies in Eagle River | AspenTimes.com

Rafter dies in Eagle River

County Coroner Kara Bettis talks with an unidentified man who was rafting down the Eagle River with a Gypsum man when the raft flipped in Edwards. The Gypsum man passed out along the bank; kayakers and emergency personnel were unable to revive him. (Preston Utley/Vail Daily)

EDWARDS ” A private rafter died Saturday afternoon after the boat he and another man were in flipped on the Eagle River near the Riverwalk mall in a stretch of water called the “Edwards Mile,” the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office reported.

The 57-year-old Gypsum man ” unidentified until his family is contacted ” floated down the river above Edwards, said Lt. Mike McWilliam of the Sheriff’s Office. Sometime before 2 p.m. near Riverwalk, the boat capsized and the deceased man and rower, who were both wearing life vests, were thrown into the water, McWilliam said.

The rower, who refused to give his name, swam to the south side of the river while the other man ended up on the north side, McWilliam said. Both men had several years of experience rafting, McWilliam said, although the river is at peak flow right now.

“It’s just kind of a freak accident,” McWilliam said. “(The river) is near peak flow this weekend so that makes for bigger waves.”

Several kayakers pulled the man to the side of the river where he collapsed, McWilliam said. The kayakers performed CPR on the man for a half hour, McWilliam said, adding emergency personnel with the Eagle River Fire Protection District also tried to revive the man.

The man, covered by a white sheet, was being attended to by officials with the Sheriff’s Office, fire district and Eagle County Coroner on the Eaton Ranch about a half-mile west of Riverwalk.

An autopsy is scheduled to be performed on the man in the coming days, said Kara Bettis, Eagle County coroner.

Alcohol or drugs were not factors in the accident, McWilliam said, adding criminal charges won’t be pursued against the rower.

The fire district got a call Friday night for a separate incident on the same stretch of the Eagle River in which a man fell from his boat and suffered minor injuries but lived, said Division Chief Mikel Kerst of the fire district.

“We’ve got a lot of amateurs out running this thing and I’m no amateur but I wouldn’t do it,” Kerst said.

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