Boaters able to self-rescue after their raft capsizes Sunday in Silverthorne
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Two boaters who launched a small inflatable raft Sunday (May 29) near the factory outlets in Silverthorne went for an icy swim in the fast-moving water, but were able to reach shore on their own, according to Summit County Sheriff’s special operations technician Mark Watson.
The two rafters, who had a dog with them, floated only a few hundred yards before their lightweight vessel capsized in the rough waters. They were swept downstream under a bridge and several hundred yards farther before safely reaching the shore.
“Somehow, they managed to grab the dog, too,” Watson said.
They were lucky that they weren’t trapped in the water by logs or other debris along the shore. Local emergency officials have been warning of swift-water dangers for the last few days, as Colorado streams start to rise with melting snow.
Along with a few other sheriff’s deputies and Silverthorne police officers, Watson worked to retrieve the raft from where it was stuck against the bridge at the intersection of Highway 9 and Wildernest Road.
Watson said it was the third river incident during the weekend. A kayaker capsized near the Silverthorne Pavilion Saturday, and another pair of rafters, also with a dog, also lost control of their raft near the Columbine Bridge.
With icy cold waters, it doesn’t take long for hypothermia to set in, Watson said, again urging all boaters, anglers and hikers to exercise caution the next few weeks. Watson said he also recently observed someone throwing a stick for their dog near the Silverthorne Pavilion Bridge. People trying to rescue their dogs when the pets get in trouble in swift water is one of the leading causes of accidents in swift water.
“The rivers are deceptively dangerous this time of year,” said Summit County Sheriff John Minor. “During spring runoff, there is an incredible amount of debris in the water, and some of it is just under the surface,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office recommends following these safety rules around high water:
- If flooding occurs, get to higher ground immediately. Stay away from flood-prone areas, including dips, low spots, valleys, ditches, washes, etc.
- Avoid flooded areas or those with rapid water flow. Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream. It takes only six inches of fast flowing water to sweep you off your feet.
- Don’t allow children or pets to play near high water, storm drains, culverts or ditches. Hidden dangers could lie beneath the water, and even adults can easily be sucked under and drown in the strong currents near culverts.
- Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by floodwaters. NEVER drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Water only two feet deep can float away most automobiles.
- Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly when threatening conditions exist.
- Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers. ·
- Monitor NOAA Weather Radio or your local media for vital weather related information.
To learn more about the impacts of high water and what you can do to prepare for the spring runoff, download the High Water Preparedness brochure from the county website at: www.co.summit.co.us.
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