Man falls, dies at Grottos near Aspen
Aspen Times Correspondent
Vail CO, Colorado
Aspen rescuers pull a woman with a head injury and broken leg from the cascades area at the Grottos on Wednesday afternoon. Miami-based attorney Steven Chaykin died after attempting to save his wife, who slipped and fell into the Roaring Fork River.
ASPEN, Colorado ” A prominent Florida attorney died Wednesday afternoon after attempting to rescue his wife from the Roaring Fork River in an area east of Aspen.
Steven Chaykin, 57, slid into the river in an effort to save Melissa Chaykin, who had slipped on a wet rock and fallen in the fast-flowing water at about 1:30 p.m. The husband suffered a head injury and was knocked unconscious before being swept over a small waterfall to a pool below.
A witness estimated Chaykin was floating face down for five minutes before a group of day hikers were able to pull him out of the water and begin CPR.
Despite rescue efforts, crews stopped resuscitation at 2:27 p.m.
The official cause of death was not yet determined, but Chaykin was “immediately unconscious upon entry into the river,” according to a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office news release.
Chaykin and his wife, who suffered head and leg injuries, were visiting the Grottos, a scenic spot on Independence Pass, with their 10-year-old daughter, Sydney, and another couple.
“He was blue from when we started working on him,” said Malka Susswein, of Yonkers, N.Y. Susswein was among a group of day hikers at the nearby ice caves who took action when they heard screams from the waterfall.
Susswein’s two sons, Benjy, 21, and Ari, 18, jumped in the water and some six people on scene formed a human chain to pull the unconscious Chaykin onto a rock and begin CPR.
Meanwhile, Lindy Kahn, of Houston, followed the shouts of Melissa Chaykin, who apparently was in shock and stranded on a rock in an upper tier of the waterfall.
“We kept telling her help is coming,” Kahn said. “She was shivering and crying and saying, ‘When are they coming?'”
Kahn talked to Melissa Chaykin until rescuers arrived and were able to form another human chain and pull her to safety on the side of the falls.
Rescue crews later transported Melissa Chaykin on a backboard to the trailhead and by ambulance to Aspen Valley Hospital while crews continued CPR on her husband.
“We did compressions for about 45 minutes,” said Kahn’s daughter, Alysha. “We had a pulse and it went faint, then we got it back.”
At one point the injured man’s hand moved, Alysha Kahn said. Aspen firefighters and Pitkin County Sheriff’s deputies arrived and took over resuscitation 20 minutes after the call went out.
Earlier, Alysha Kahn’s sister, Lauren, ran to her vehicle and drove toward Aspen, dialing 911 as soon as she was in cell phone range.
She said she was frustrated that there was no emergency phone at the trailhead or on Highway 82 and that she had to drive 10 minutes toward Aspen to get a signal.
Chaykin, a South Florida native, earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Miami. His death swept through the Miami-Dade legal community Wednesday afternoon as colleagues spoke of Chaykin’s passion for the law, his clients and his family, according to a report from the Miami Herald.
“He was a true friend and a great lawyer and a great husband and a great father,” said longtime friend Sam Rabin. “It’s such an incredible loss to this community.”
Chaykin began his career in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and later became a defense attorney on many high-profile cases in Florida.
Chaykin talked about his wife and 10-year-old daughter, Sydney, “incessantly,” according to friends interviewed by the Herald.
He would get Sydney “enthused about everything he was enthused about, hiking, biking,” said his sister, Robin Chaykin. “He had her when he was a little older so it was more precious to him.”
“He was the big brother of your dreams,” she added. “He was so wise. I always sought his counsel. Whatever his passion was he’d share it with you.”