Strong rapids dump 19 into Eagle River |

Strong rapids dump 19 into Eagle River

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyGypsum Fire engineer Ethan Vroman, left, walks by an ambulance after helping rescue a woman from the Eagle River after the raft she was in flipped over Monday near Gypsum.

EAGLE ” Three rafts flipped on a large rapid, spilling 19 people into the Eagle River near the Eagle County Fairgrounds Monday.

No one was seriously injured. One of the rafters was taken in an ambulance to the hospital as a precaution, said Deputy Bob Silva of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

“She was in good shape, according to the ambulance crew,” Silva said.

The woman held on to one of the rafts as she floated to Gypsum, swam to an island in the middle of the river and had to be rescued, but most of the people were able to swim to the shore on either side of the Eagle River, authorities said.

Monday’s accident was the 12th time this year that someone has reported boaters needing help or rescue in Eagle County. Shannon Cordingly, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s, said that’s close to the total number of calls authorities got last year.

“The water’s definitely high,” Cordingly said.

So far this season, local authorities have rescued two women who fell out of their raft after it wrapped around a pole in Eagle and a kayaker who fell out of his boat on the Eagle River in Dowd Junction, authorities said.

The rescues come as the National Weather Service has issued flood advisories for parts of the Eagle and Colorado rivers as the winter’s heavy snowfall rapidly melts and rivers rise.

The rivers have not reached their highest points yet, said Greg Kelchner, who has owned Eagle-based Timberline Tours since 1971. “Peak flow” could come sometime in the next couple weeks, he said.

“I think we’re just beginning to see what’s going to be a pretty impressive river flow season,” Kelchner said.

Rafters in Monday’s accident only had bumps, bruises and scratches after the rafts flipped one by one over a “very large, very fast moving” rapid at the end of Brooks Lane, Silva said.

A kayaker from Timberline Tours, Lt. Mike McWilliam of the Sheriff’s Office and Barry Smith, Eagle County’s emergency director, helped pull the stray rafts ashore and several workers from fire and ambulance agencies also helped.

“It sounds like they’re cold and exhausted,” McWilliam said about the boaters, three of whom were guides.

Nova Guides, the company that was running the raft trip, drove the rafters back to its headquarters near Minturn, McWilliam said. Greg Caretto, owner of Nova Guides, did not return a message requesting comment.

Several of Kelchner’s guides were on their way back from a trip on the Colorado River and happened to see people floating in the Eagle River, Kelchner said. They stopped to help with the rescues, he said.

River guides for Timberline Tours also had led rafting trips down the same stretch in which the accident occurred, he said.

Kelchner does not consider running rafts down that stretch of the river “a gamble,” but “people need to exercise extreme caution,” he said.

Three people died on Colorado rivers this weekend. One woman fell into the Poudre River Sunday and died after she was hospitalized. She was in a group tubing on the river Sunday when they all fell in the water, The Associated Press reported. The rest of the group made it out safely.

The two other people in other water accidents drowned. One died when his raft overturned on the Gunnison River and another man died in a swimming hole.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. The Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 970-748-2931 or

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