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River Incident Report #800027

Date of Incident: May 25, 1980
River: Colorado
Section of River: Unnamed canyon of the river
Location on River: The Slide (Mile 1.6)
Relative Flow: High
Gage Reading: 38,400 cubic feet per second
Difficulty: Class II
Type of Incident: Capsized Boat
Injuries: Drowning
Type of Trip: Private
Type of Boat: Dorsett Cabin Cruiser

Four men, ages 52, 27, 24, and 22 were thrown into the river without life jackets when their boat turned on its side after hitting a wave at The Slide. The channel of the river is constricted there and during high water a rapid occurs which is not present at lower flows. The men were part of the annual Friendship Cruise, a flat water trip which proceeds singly or in groups down the Green River from Green River, Utah, to the confluence with the Colorado River, and then up the Colorado to Moab, Utah. The eldest man succeeded in holding on to the boat, but the other three were thrown away from it and from time to time were forced under water by eddy currents. Rescue boats reached the 27 year old and the 22 year old who were pulled aboard, but the 25 year old sank in the tail of the rapid and did not surface. Subsequent searches by boat, land parties, and a helicopter proved futile. The body was recovered 13 days later in Cataract Canyon below Rapid 10 (Mile 208.0), 10.5 miles downstream from the site of the accident.

In Retrospect
1) Flat-bottomed power boats are not designed for running rapids. To navigate them in such an environment is dangerous.
2) Always wear life jackets when boating through a rapid, even if it is the only rapid on the river.

Did You Know?

Spanish Bottom on the Colorado River

At Spanish Bottom on the Colorado River, scientists discovered 260 feet of sediment below the water's surface. This could make Cataract Canyon one of the most actively filling canyons in the world. More...