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Summit County Rescue Group helps 2 men after kayaking incident on Lower Blue River

Stock photo of river
Posted at 7:21 AM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-26 09:23:24-04

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — The Summit County Rescue Group is reminding the public about dangerous river conditions after responding to an incident involving two inexperienced kayakers along the Lower Blue River.

On Saturday, the Summit County Rescue Group (SCRG), an all-volunteer nonprofit, was notified that around 11:19 a.m., two men — a 58-year-old father and his 32-year-old son — required help after attempting to kayak along the Lower Blue River north of Silverthorne.

The men, who were both inexperienced and had little knowledge of the river, entered the water just above the Blue River Campground around 11 a.m. with lake kayaks. They planned to exit the river at the Columbine Takeout, according to SCRG.

Shortly after they began kayaking down the river, the son fell out of his kayak. The father saw this happen and watched his son make it to the shoreline, so he attempted to grab his son’s kayak, according to SCRG.

He then went around a corner and disappeared from view.

An experienced whitewater river kayaker witnessed the entire incident and told the father to exit the river quickly because Class IV rapids were just ahead. The father attempted to get out but was unable to and became caught in the rapids, according to SCRG.

The whitewater kayaker met up with the son and both saw two kayaks floating in the water, but no sign of the father. The whitewater kayaker called 911.

Several agencies responded and searched the Blue River Campground and the Columbine Takeout, according to SCRG.

Ultimately, the man was found at 12:21 p.m. on the opposite side of the river, trying to find a way across.

The Summit County Rescue Group is reminding residents and visitors that the rivers are running high and can be dangerous, especially for those unfamiliar with them.

Matt Hage, mission coordinator for this incident, said the river is getting to the point that it should be left to those who have the proper equipment, experience in river kayaking, and knowledge of the river.

“Even those with experience need to understand the river’s characteristics during spring runoff,” he said.

He said one of the lake kayaks is still submerged and it is too dangerous to retrieve as of now.

Charles Pitman, the team’s public information officer, said the rescue group has received a significant increase in search and rescue calls in the past three weeks.

Water levels are rising, and snow conditions are changing, he said. Plus, the relaxation of travel advisories has more people headed to the mountains.

Pitman reminded people to dress appropriately and to come prepared for poor weather and an extended amount of time outside.

“Many of our calls for assistance might not be necessary if there was proper planning,” he said. “Warm clothes, extra food, a GPS app, and a headlamp can go a long way to reducing the effects of bad weather, a lost trail, and a setting sun.”