Lawsuit from 2016 Aspen rafting death settled; details not released
October 26, 2018
A settlement deal has been reached in the litigation over the June 2016 rafting death of a Maryland man on the Roaring Fork River.
Attorneys introduced a “joint notice of resolution” Oct. 16 saying the estate of James Abromitis and defendant Aspen Whitewater Rafting “have agreed to a resolution of this civil action and anticipate that a stipulated notice of dismissal will be filed with the Court within thirty-five days.”
Court records don’t delve into any terms of the settlement, and parties on both sides this week did not release details.
Aspen attorney Alan Feldman, who filed suit on behalf of the estate of Abromitis and his widow, Allison Parker, said “the matter was resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all parties and that is all I am able to state about the matter.”
Calls to Denver civil defense lawyer Matthew Hegarty and Jim Ingram, the owner of Aspen Whitewater, were not returned this week.
The pending settlement deal would come after Parker sued Aspen Whitewater on June 14 in Pitkin County District Court, accusing it of misleading the couple about the river’s conditions when they rafted the Slaughterhouse Falls section of the Roaring Fork River on June 15, 2016.
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Twice Abromitis was ejected from an Aspen Whitewater boat “resulting with him being flushed downriver to his death,” the lawsuit alleged.
At the time of the fatality, Aspen rivers had swollen up because of heavy spring runoff, and the Slaughterhouse leg was running over 2,000 cubic feet per second, which is a “common limit for other commercial rafting outfitters due to the extreme risk presented by this section of river at high water,” the suit alleged. The complaint added the water was “running abnormally high” even though Aspen Whitewater marketed the Slaughterhouse portion as “suitable for ‘gung-ho beginners.'”
Aspen Whitewater, however, countered in a court filing that Abromitis and Parker signed releases that waived the outfitter from any liability. Also in its Aug. 8-dated counterclaim, the defendant said the plaintiffs should refund Aspen Whitewater for any expenses associated with the lawsuit because they committed breach of contract by filing the complaint.
Parker contended that she and her husband only signed the waiver after they paid for the rafting trip and were onboard a shuttle bus to the river for the raft trip.
Abromitis was 58 at the time he died. The couple was joined on the trip by a younger couple, an older man and a raft guide, as well as an Aspen Times photographer who was on the boat shooting a video for the newspaper’s website, The Aspen Times reported at the time. A kayaker acting as a safety boat also assisted the crew.
The boat ran into problems about five minutes after it was put in the river at Stein Park off Cemetery Road. Abromitis recovered the first time he was ejected from the raft, but rescuers could not resuscitate him the second time he was thrown off. His wife and the rafting guide also were ejected the second time Abromitis went in but they recovered.
After the incident, Aspen Whitewater’s Ingram issued a statement defending his company’s track record.
“The safety of our guests is our company’s No. 1 priority, and we’ve had an outstanding safety record since our inception in 2004. Our guides are some of the most experienced in the state. Besides having thousands of hours of on-the-water training, our guides are also trained in swiftwater rescue, first aid and CPR. The man guiding the raft today has 23 years of rafting experience in locations throughout the United States, and the safety kayaker has 15 years of experience both whitewater rafting and kayaking.”