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River Incident Report #790143

Date of Incident: June 12, 1979
River: Colorado
Section of River: Cataract Canyon
Location on River: Brown Betty Rapid (Rapid 1)
Relative Flow: Medium
Gage Reading: 49,200 cubic feet per second
Difficulty: Class III
Type of Incident: Capsized Boat
Injuries: Drowning
Type of Trip: Private
Type of Boat: Inflatable Raft (6-man Udisco)

Description
The victim, age 20, was one of two men in the eighth day of a voyage which launched at Ouray, Utah, on the Green River, with an undetermined place and means of exit. Their river running experience was limited to one river in Texas, and their only reference guide was a road map. The survivor stated that they saw the warning sign at the confluence with the Colorado River, did not intend to run Cataract Canyon, and were looking for a Ranger Station and a road out of the canyon. The survivor claims they did not see the Ranger who tried to contact them at Spanish Bottom. The Ranger was attracted by their not wearing life jackets and other concerns. The survivor stated that they adorned life jackets before descending Brown Betty (Mile 212.3) in mid-morning, but that his was pulled off by the river after the boat capsized. He survived by grabbing a plastic bag which kept him afloat until he swam ashore. The victim was last seen in the rapid. Within the hour a commercial boatman found the empty raft below Rapid 2 (Mile 211.9) and secured it to shore. The survivor was found at Rapid 4 (Mile 210.9) searching for his companion. The operator of the commercial boat picked up the survivor and they continued searching downstream. The victim's body was not in a life jacket when it was discovered on July 3, near the mouth of Dark Canyon in the part of Cataract Canyon which is inundated by the Powell Reservoir (Mile 182.8) and in the Glen Canyon Recreational Area.

In Retrospect
1) The accident was the result of ignorance, improper equipment, and inexperience.
2) The Type II life preservers used are inadequate for white water, and the two were fortunate to have navigated Gray and Desolation Canyons on the Green River without an accident.

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