A Swift Water Rescue team participating in a multi-agency search and recovery mission retrieved the body of a 16-year old female from Kansas, approximately 100 yards down river from The Devil’s Punchbowl, yesterday morning. The young woman, who was in the area on a day trip with friends and family, had been crossing the river just below the Punchbowl and was swept down-stream by the strong current on Wednesday afternoon.
The young woman’s companions and others in the area performed their own search of the immediate area, and also sent someone to call for help from an ‘Emergency Call Box’ along the Highway. Valley wide resources immediately responded to the area, and thoroughly searched the banks of the Roaring Fork River. No sign of the young woman was found by nightfall, when search efforts were suspended for safety.
The Devil’s Punchbowl is a popular summer recreation spot on the Roaring Fork River, near mile point 50 on CO 82/Independence Pass. The identity of the victim is pending positive identification from the Coroner’s office and her family has been notified.
“We couldn’t have accomplished this mission, which is a tremendous tragedy for the family, without the collaboration between agencies,” said Alex Burchetta, Chief Deputy of Operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Incident Commander for the Pitkin County Incident Management Team.
The Pitkin County Incident Management Team took command of the incident earlier this morning in an effort to organize the search and ensure the safety of all personnel. The Twin Lakes Colorado Canal Company was instrumental to the mission after being contacted by Pitkin County Emergency Manager, Valerie MacDonald last night. The company assisted by diverting water away from the Roaring Fork River dropping the water level in the river by almost 150 cubic feet per second (CFS) which aided the team in locating the victim this morning.
Agencies that participated in the mission included: Members of The Aspen Fire Protection District, Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Authority, Aspen Ambulance District, The Aspen Hope Center, the Aspen Police Department, Glenwood Springs Fire Department, Mountain Rescue Aspen, Garfield County Search and Rescue, Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District, Pitkin County and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office participated in the incident.
The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind the public that although peak run-off has subsided many rivers and streams in the area are still flowing higher and faster than what might be expected for this time of year.
More than 21 people have been killed or gone missing in Colorado’s waterways this year as heavy snowmelt has led to fast-flowing, cold, and turbulent rivers.