James Paul Sizemore, a 44-year-old from Manhattan Beach, California, has been identified as the rafter who died Monday during a commercial rafting trip with Blazing Adventures on the Roaring Fork River.
According to the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office, the cause of death was drowning, with a contributing factor of heart disease.
The incident occurred shortly before 3 p.m. Monday, when two men fell out of the raft in the Hell’s Half Mile area of the Upper Roaring Fork River, a few miles above Woody Creek. One of the men returned to the raft, but Sizemore did not reconnect with the vessel.
“Very unfortunately, the client was not able to swim to safety but was ultimately pulled from the river by a Blazing Adventures guide,” a company statement said. “As part of normal emergency response protocols, guides administered CPR and medical responders were called to the scene but the gentleman was unable to be resuscitated.”
Lynda Logan Russo, who was in Sizemore’s raft, wrote in an email that the guides were professional and did what they could in order to get him to safety “while at the same time keeping the rest of us from going into danger.”
“I do want to send my condolences out to the family of the victim,” Russo said.
Tim McMahon, owner of Blazing Adventures, said the company had no further comment other than to say, “We are focusing internally on our guides and staff. We do not have any new information at this time.”
Pitkin County Coroner J. Stevens Ayers said it was his understanding that Sizemore was in the water for about five minutes.
A statement from the Sheriff’s Office said the man was reportedly short of breath and eventually lost consciousness. He was then moved to the riverbank, where rescuers eventually took over resuscitation efforts. The man was then hauled up to the Rio Grande Trail using rope and transported to Aspen Valley Hospital via ambulance.
“I commend all the kayakers and raft guides [who] stopped to help,” Russo said. “Also to the doctor and other people on the trail who had to climb down some steep terrain in order to get to us.”