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Challenges of water rescues

Challenges of water rescues

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Another death on the Arkansas River.

The Chaffee County Sheriff's Office reported rescuers recovered a body in the Arkansas River, near Salida just after 12 p.m. Monday.

The man was with a group of people kayaking just north of Bunea Vista.

His boat got stuck on a large rock and he climbed out.

Witnesses said he was standing on the shore. Then, minutes later, they found him floating downriver.

An autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow.

The high number of deaths in the river has experts in water rescues scratching their heads.

When you don't control the elements, saving potential victims is difficult.

"You're trying to put rhyme or reason to something that's uncontrollable," said Neil Raedel, Colorado Springs Fire Department Swift Water Rescue Unit. "Being that river atmosphere."

Raedel's crews haven't assisted in the river rescues this year, but regularly respond to calls along bodies of water.

He has worked on water rescues for over a decade, but doesn't know why the Arkansas River has proven to be deadlier this year.

"We haven't noticed any higher flows necessarily this year than any other. We are getting some rain, which is nice, and hopefully we're coming out of the drought cycle," he said. "But the flows aren't crazy on the Arkansas."

The Arkansas River Rafter's Association said three of the people who died on the river this year were rafting with a professional at the time they disappeared.

But regardless of the supervision, those numbers are still high.

With swift water rescues, Raedel's team has so many factors at a scene to consider.

" It depends on what route down that said waterway a victim will take. if they go river right and there's a big strainer there, our search may not go 30-40 yards," he said. "If they go river left around the strainer, we could end up in Fountain or halfway down to Pueblo."

It makes every rescue unique and that much more difficult when minutes count.


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