Outfitters, visitors reflect on recent rafting deaths

Two people in past two weeks drowned in Arkansas River

Rafting Risks And Safety

FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. - Outfitters along the Arkansas River in Fremont County insist that whitewater rafting remains a safe sport despite recent tragedies in the sport.

Fremont County authorities ruled Wednesday that drowning was the cause of an Oklahoma man's death after he fell into the river Tuesday while on a rafting trip west of Cañon City.

A man who disappeared last week while floating on an inner tube in the river in Pueblo is believed to have drowned.

The river is experiencing high, fast flows because melting heavy snow in the mountains.

Wes Vaughn of Michigan, who went on his first rafting trip, said he's not worried by the recent drownings.

"I just like to have a lot of adventure in my life," he said.  "I was looking for the excitement.  It might have changed the minds of some people I was with.  But for me, it's all about the excitement.  So I think (rafting is) worth the risk."

Andy Neinas, owner of Echo Canyon River Expeditions, said most rafting enthusiasts agree.

"(Falls into the water) are typically very brief," he said.  "We typically get people back in (a raft) right away.  A fatality is a very rare occurrence."

Neinas said rafting guides are licensed and well-trained in rafting trips that vary in level of difficulty.  He said passengers wear safety equipment including helmets and life vests, and are told what to expect during a trip.

"The Arkansas River is the most popular river for rafting in the U.S., he said.  "The River gets about 215,000 visitors a year.  Accidents happen, but you can't let it ruin a fun time with family or friends.

For more information about whitewater rafting, visit: http://raftthebest.com

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