No life jackets worn in apparent drownings |

No life jackets worn in apparent drownings

Greg Massé & Naomi Havlen
Post Independent Photo/Carrie Click Frank Nadel, left, and Carl Smith, of the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District, stand on the banks of the Crystal River, just downstream of BRB Crystal River Resort, near where the body of a kayaker was found later Wednesday.

Neither a kayaker who drowned Wednesday in the Crystal River south of Carbondale nor a man swept away Tuesday night by the Colorado River near Rifle were wearing life jackets. Authorities Thursday evening had still not found the body of the man suspected of drowning in Colorado River, but they did release his name – Dale Michael Petersen, 30, of Parachute. Petersen was pulled under the surface of the water Tuesday evening while swimming to catch up with his two brothers, ages 26 and 27, who were floating on an air mattress.The kayaker killed on the Crystal River Wednesday has been identified as Les Raleigh Normandin, 53, from Parachute.

Normandin was found in the river south of Carbondale by a passerby who spotted his body from a highway. His one-person kayak was found about a mile upstream from the campground.Investigators found a life jacket in Normandin’s vehicle, parked near his intended takeout spot on the Crystal River.According to Glenwood Springs-based Colorado Canoe & Kayak, the Crystal River Wednesday was running high and fast due to increased snowmelt from recent warm temperatures. The stretch of river from Avalanche Creek to the BRB Crystal River Resort campground is popular with kayakers; it is rated as a Class 3 rapid by the guidebook “Colorado Rivers and Creeks.”A Class 3 rapid is characterized as having moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers, according to the National Park Service.If man swept away in Rifle isn’t found by the weekend, the search – which is being done by volunteer members of Garfield County Search and Rescue – will intensify over the weekend when many of the members are off work.

“The river work is probably the most dangerous thing we do, so we have to do it as safely as possible,” rescuer Lanny Grant said. Grant urged recreational river floaters, as well as anyone playing on the water, to take safety precautions. “(Wednesday) four kids were floating down and almost duplicated the incident from the night before,” he said. Fortunately the search and rescue crews were there to pull the kids to safety on the swollen river’s banks. Grant said it’s wise to wear a lifejacket when working or playing around water. “We recommend that no one go alone when on or near the water,” he said.

Grant also urged people to avoid alcohol while on the river and to use caution if a rescue becomes necessary. “A lot of times drowning become multiple drownings because the rescuer becomes a victim, too,” he said. “Lifejackets are uncomfortable, but they’ll save your life.”Glenwood Springs correspondent Carrie Click contributed to this story.

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