Woman swept into Grottos | AspenTimes.com

Woman swept into Grottos

Tim Mutrie

A 52-year-old Florida woman is presumed to have drowned in the Grottos Falls area of the Roaring Fork River Sunday afternoon, after she lost her footing, fell in and was swept under in the dangerous stretch of water.

Close to 20 rescuers – clad in wetsuits, helmets, life jackets and other swift-water rescue gear – postponed search and recovery efforts after 6:30 p.m. last night, following a four-plus-hour unsuccessful effort to locate the missing woman. Further efforts were to resume again today at 6:30 a.m.

According to Deputy Bruce Benson of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, the woman was with a group of family and friends picnicking at a campsite just downstream from the last pool which makes up the Grottos Falls yesterday afternoon. The Grottos are located east of Aspen, on Independence Pass.

At some point, the woman and others in the group went downstream to the bridge adjacent to the Grottos Falls parking area, crossed the river and then proceeded back upstream to the slick rock area which abuts the falls, Benson said.

“[The victim] apparently went out onto the dry, slick rock, slipped and went into the water,” Benson said. “[Witnesses] saw her go over one rapid, but they didn’t see her go over the next one.”

Volunteers with the local Swift Water Search and Rescue team, composed of members of the Aspen, Snowmass and Basalt fire departments and Mountain Rescue Aspen, focused search efforts on the pool where the victim was last seen. They probed the fast-moving water with long poles, attempted to drag the bottom using ropes and grapple hooks, and tried to free some snags – all to no avail.

Local authorities received reports of the accident at about 1:40 p.m. Sunday. Shortly after responding, Deputies Benson and Tom Grady had the water flow from Lincoln Creek, controlled at Grizzly Reservoir, largely diverted to reduce the flow through Grottos Falls. Prior to the diversion, the river was flowing at about 145 cubic feet per second; the diversion was expected to lessen water flow by about one-third.

However, by the time rescuers called it quits last night, the diversion effort had yet to significantly reduce water flow through the area. That, coupled with the onset of evening rain showers, forced postponement of the search until this morning.

Authorities withheld the woman’s name yesterday at the request of the family.

The Grottos Falls claimed the life of another person last month. On the Fourth of July, a 22-year-old Oklahoma man was wading in a pool directly above the falls, when he lost his footing and was swept away in the current. Randall Park’s body was recovered from the river the next day.

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