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Letters: Rafting almost drowned my daughter

Compiled by Vail Daily staff
Vail CO, Colorado

Schools aren’t businesses

I appreciate the outreach exhibited by Eagle County School District to my commentary on the TAP (Teacher Advancement Program), particularly Brooke Skjonsby’s response. However, there were some fundamental aspects that still caused frustration.

I take little comfort in BusinessWeek complimenting the TAP system. I have served as a consultant to healthcare company HealthTrio, in addition to watching my father build Fortune 200 company HealthNet/Qual-Med as its CEO, during its most formative years. As a capitalist myself, I have the utmost respect for good business and corporate America. In having rich experiences in both corporate America and public school teaching though, I know that blending those two worlds would be a complete mistake. Public schools are not Wal-Mart, where assembly-line efficiency turns out the best results. Public school classrooms are areas where 30 different children, all with diverse learning styles, are striving to be enlightened.

With all due respect to BusinessWeek, I doubt their editors and advisors have ever served as public school teachers. Thus, the day Spencer Kagan and/or Howard Gardner compliment TAP, is the day I will be pacified.

In addition, I also take little comfort in the federal government’s $6.7 million grant. Our government is expected to experiment and promote different methods of educational practice; our $6.7 million award is a testament to the potency of our county being a testing ground for new methods of public school structure, not confirmation of an efficient program.

My important point here is the fact that the response from Eagle County School District failed to mention the people, the taxpayers of Eagle County. I have little use for BusinessWeek’s accolades and the federal government’s money; our education system has been outsourced and sold to a family foundation, with our administrators pandering to their standards, not ours.

I would suggest that our good school district start spending more money on their communications department, because we intend on keeping them busy. The fight to repeal TAP is only beginning.

Muhammad Ali Hasan

Beaver Creek

Near rafting disaster

We would like to follow up on your article regarding whitewater rafting dangers that you published last week. Ironically, we read the article the very day after we experienced a near-disaster rafting with a local rafting organization on the Shoshone last week. While we agree that statistically, rafting is “safe” and certainly safer than driving a car, there are scenarios that can make the odds of a negative outcome much greater than the rafting companies would like the public to believe.

On our trip, there were four adults, two women, one over 50 and two men, one over 50 and three children, two of which were 10 or younger and a 14-year-old with a guide who had a mild speech and hearing impediment. Only a few individuals had had any experience with rafting. When we called the company, we asked for a “family” trip and initially were offered a trip on the Arkansas River and when we expressed concern about the safety of a trip on that river as we were aware of some deaths that had occurred on it, we were told the Shoshone trip would be very “mild” and much easier.

We were surprised to learn that this was a trip that included Class III rapids almost from the outset with little smooth water for those with little experience to “warm up” with before hitting whitewater. We were given the standard safety lecture. Following launch, our raft made it through the first rapid, but shortly thereafter, it floated into a large boulder that caused the raft to nearly capsize and four individuals were dumped into the river leaving only two adults, a child and the guide to help rescue the others.

My daughter, a 10-year-old girl who had no prior experience rafting, essentially panicked and came very close to drowning both herself and her mother as they were swept down the river and nearly went through a dangerous rapid with rocks and whitewater with only a personal floatation device and helmet. The two other rafters in our group did nothing to help rescue them and our guide essentially panicked as well, never calling the order for “high right” to attempt to right the raft, and never threw a rope to them. Fortunately, they were able to swim to a relatively calm area of the river before entering the other rapid. Although we were eventually able to paddle the raft to them and pull them aboard, this was not done easily and they very nearly were swept into the next rapid and could easily have been severely injured or drowned.

My daughter suffered several abrasions as did my wife who now has severe muscle spasms as a result of trying to keep my daughter afloat. Furthermore, my daughter was emotionally traumatized and cried hysterically for well over an hour and could not continue the trip even though the trip through the rapids was essentially over. We had the company drive us in one of their buses away from the river. My daughter said that she would “never” do that again and doesn’t want to fly fish again, either, as she is now fearful of any fast flowing water.

Thus, while rafting does seem safe on the surface, there are potentially extenuating circumstances that can make it extremely dangerous. It seems to us that there should be stricter criteria for the number of individuals on each raft and that guides need to be screened better.

Having only two grown men who could rescue individuals who might be thrown overboard is simply not enough. Had our entire raft capsized, your article would have been about several more deaths that occurred on the river, not just a rhetorical question about the alleged safety of this sport.

Clay J. Cockerell, M.D.

Edwards

Down with dog haters

I hate Eagle and all the dog haters who live there.

To the lady that lives in the house to the left of the road going up to Bureau of Land Management land towards the Boneyard Trail ” you made a fool of yourself. To all others, beware.

Why don’t you put up a fence? I wonder, do you talk to the deer that way that come on to your property?

Leslie Brant


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