Man’s body found in Yampa River after jumping in water to evade police
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A 22-year-old man who jumped into the frigid Yampa River to escape Steamboat Springs police officers around midnight Sunday was found dead downriver Monday afternoon following an extensive search.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife employees who were scouring the river by boat with several other agencies found the man’s body submerged in the river just west of the Steamboat Golf Club.
His body was recovered around noon about five miles from where he jumped into the river on Yampa Street. The man’s identity has not been released.
Police detectives were still working Monday night to piece together the man’s final hours.
Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christensen said the incident started Sunday night at 11:40 p.m., when officers were called to the alley behind 737 Lincoln Ave. for a report of a disturbance involving a man who had allegedly attempted to steal someone’s purse.
When officers arrived, they found the 22-year-old man lying on the ground. Officers labeled the man as a suspect in the attempted theft of the purse.
“He’s intoxicated. He’s somewhat uncooperative. Officers were trying to determine what was going on,” Christensen said.
Christensen said police also fielded a report that the man had damaged a woman’s car that was in the alley.
“According to his family, this type of behavior was very much out of character for him,” Christensen said.
The man appeared to be injured and had scratches on him. After paramedics arrived to check on the man, Christensen said the man took off running. The man jumped into the river near Backdoor Sports on Yampa Street around midnight.
An officer on the riverbank was able to grab the man a block downriver, but Christensen said the man wrestled free from the officer and swam toward the middle of the Yampa.
An officer also jumped into the cold, dark water about 50 yards downstream from the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge hoping to grab the man. But the second attempt also failed.
“In the dark, it was very difficult to try and recover him,” Christensen said.
The man was later spotted partially submerged and not swimming near the Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park. But the search had to be paused at 2:20 a.m.
“The conditions were pretty rough,” Routt County Search and Rescue Incident Commander Del Bostock said. “You have fog riding off the river at that time. You can’t really see the water, much less what’s in the water.”
Early Monday morning, search teams composed of several agencies started searching several miles of river between west Steamboat and Hayden. Crews on boats checked snags where a body might end up caught in the river. Other volunteers walked the riverbank.
For two hours, a Classic Air helicopter flew above the river hoping to spot the man.
“It was a really great mission,” Bostock said. “We had a great group of people who worked great together. We’re sorry though that the outcome wasn’t good.”
Agencies involved in the search for the man included the Steamboat Springs Police Department, the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, West Routt Fire and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Police were having difficulty Monday finding other individuals involved in the disturbance that initially led officers to the man in the downtown alley. Christensen said the man had lived in Steamboat for about two months.
“Our thoughts and prayers really go with the family right now,” Christensen said during the search. “We know this is a difficult time.”