Missing rafter Amanda Taylor's body found in Arkansas River near Salida

Woman's body found 3 miles downstream

CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. - The body of a Utah woman who disappeared when her raft overturned in the Arkansas River was found Wednesday night, the Chaffee County Coroner's Office said.

Amanda Taylor, 31, of Vernal, Utah, disappeared Saturday night near Salida when her raft flipped.

Her body was discovered Wednesday night after someone saw a body below the river's surface about 3 miles from where the raft flipped. The body was at the confluence of the Little Arkansas River near Salida’s south city limits.

The search for Taylor was launched on Saturday night, when the Chaffee County Sheriff's Office received a 911 from a member of a seven-person rafting group who said their private raft had flipped over a diversion dam, dumping everyone in the water, at about 10 p.m.

The dam is about 6 feet high and is located 1 mile west of Salida, Undersheriff John Spezze said.

Spezze, who was on patrol duty, found five members of the group who made it to shore near County Road 160. The group said two people were still missing.

Spezze spotted a man clinging to the overturned raft below the dam.

Two Salida firefighters, a Salida police officer and sheriff's deputy soon arrived to assist Spezze.

Firefighter Brian Jefferson decided that the only way to rescue the man was for Jefferson to attempt to reach him by wading into the current while tethered to shore with three other first-responders anchoring his lifeline, Spezze said.

Jefferson battled frigid, swift currents to swim to a mid-river island. Jefferson and the other rescuers pulled the man to safety. 

"I'm telling you, (Jefferson) is a hero because the river current was well over 1,800 cubic feet per second," the undersheriff said.

The rescued man, David Torchia, 22, from Sylvania, Ohio was taken by ambulance to Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries and hypothermia, Spezze said.

The search and rescue team searched the water and banks of the river for Taylor without success until 4 a.m. Sunday, when the search was suspended.

The search resumed at 7 a.m. Sunday when the Arkansas Headwaters State Park search and rescue team used four boats to search the river downstream from the dam. The boat teams traveled 30 miles south of Salida on the river without finding Taylor, Spezze said.

The sheriff's office identified other members of the rafting party as John Spalvins, 54, of Littleton, Colorado, owner of the raft; Alex Marzec, 22, of Rossford, Ohio; Ashley Noble, 21, of Bowling Green, Ohio; Jill Bryant, 53, residence unknown; and John Wallace, 22, of Sylvania, Ohio.

Spezze said the rafting group got a late start on Saturday and then had trouble exiting the river after the sun set, because they couldn't find a safe area to land the raft on the swift-moving river.

There is a boat chute that skirts the diversion dam, but the rafting party missed it in the darkness, Spezze said.

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