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Recovery efforts continue after man falls into Roaring Fork River

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Posted at 10:56 AM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 18:10:27-04

UPDATE | Thursday, 4:05 p.m. — The Pitkin County Sheriff's Office said around 10 a.m. Thursday, search teams found the body of a man who fell into the Roaring Fork River and did not resurface. He has been identified as Steven Scott Midlarsky. The sheriff's office said he was found underwater in the Devil's Punchbowl. His body was recovered at 2:45 p.m.

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PITKIN COUNTY, Colo. — Search crews are continuing recovery efforts after a man fell into the Roaring Fork River Wednesday and didn’t resurface.

A 911 call came into the Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center just after 12 p.m. Wednesday that a man had fallen into an area of the river called the Devil’s Punch Bowl and never resurfaced, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. The report was delayed “by some time” as the caller had to drive out of the area to get cell phone service to make the phone call.

Rescue crews arrived at the scene at 12:18 p.m., and swift water rescue teams established a likely downstream containment point where they began a thorough search in the river and on shore, according to the sheriff’s office.

After three hours of searching, the sheriff’s office said it requested that the release gates at Grizzly Reservoir on Lincoln Creek — which is a major tributary to the Roaring Fork River above the Devil’s Punch Bowl — be shut to help reduce the flow of water. With lowered water levels, the crews — which had shifted from search and rescue to recovery efforts — resumed operations at 6 p.m.

Recovery efforts stopped for the night at 8 p.m. and began again early Thursday morning.

Independence Pass had to close multiple times in the area so rescuers could work. It was reopened by around 8 p.m. The sheriff’s office has not indicated any closures on Thursday as of 11 a.m.

River flow will remain “drastically reduced” because the release gates remain shut to continue to help the search efforts, the sheriff’s office said.

While rivers, creeks and streams may be past the peak runoff stage for summer, the sheriff’s office is reminding the public that the water remains hazardous for people who aren’t prepared for the strong currents and extremely cold water. Personal floatation devices are encouraged for anyone within 10 feet of swiftly moving or turbulent water.

Details on the man who fell into the river have not yet been released.