Search continues for drowning victim
Post Independent Staff
The drowning victim in Sunday’s canoeing accident in Glenwood Canyon has been identified as Erich Fritz, 32, of Denver, said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.
Fritz’s body had not been recovered as of press time Monday.
Fritz was canoeing from Dotsero to Hanging Lake with his 64-year-old father and 24-year-old sister at 6:30 p.m. when the canoe swamped just downstream from Reverse Curve Tunnel.
Fritz was not wearing a life jacket.
“They had them, but he wasn’t wearing one,” Vallario said.
Reverse Curve Tunnel is approximately two miles east of the Interstate 70 Hanging Lake rest stop and Shoshone Dam.
Vallario said a dog on board the canoe made it to shore.
After the boat swamped, Fritz’s father swam to shore on the north side of the Colorado River, while the victim and his sister were swept to the south side.
“He got her to shore, then she watched him go under,” Vallario said.
Vallario said from talking to the family, at least one person in the party had canoed Glenwood Canyon before.
“They didn’t appear to be novices,” Vallario said.
Vallario said Fritz’s father is from Muncie, Ind., and his sister is from Denver.
Garfield County Search and Rescue and Mesa County Search and Rescue used scent dogs, probe poles and motorboats to search the river and shoreline Sunday evening and through the day Monday. Vallario said his department would decide Monday night how long to continue the search.
The canoe was swept over Shoshone Dam and recovered by Colorado Department of Transportation road crews.
The National Weather Service said the Colorado River hit 11,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Dotsero Monday morning, which it predicted will be the river’s peak.
“The river is way up,” said Jim Sears, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department emergency manager. “It’s running very fast.”
Sears, who coordinated search efforts from Hanging Lake on Monday, said the last year the Colorado ran this high and fast was the mid-1990s.
“It was the same way then,” Sears said. “People were falling out of their rafts.”
High waters closed the Glenwood Canyon Trail from Grizzly Creek to the east end of the canyon on Monday. Except for a 200-yard stretch of choppy water below Reverse Tunnel, the Colorado River above Shoshone Dam has been running fast but flat.
The canyon pinches together at Reverse Tunnel, creating choppy water along the south side of the Colorado, then whitewater cuts across the river’s entire width to the north side.
Annie Hoghaug, co-owner of Colorado Canoe and Kayak, said she guesses the Reverse Tunnel stretch creates “a little riffle here and there,” during a typical summer, but with the high water, “it’s a whole different ball game.”
Hoghaug said Fritz used “poor judgment” in not wearing a life vest.
“People don’t have enough respect for how powerful the rivers are,” she said.
Vallario said he has been monitoring local rivers, and has no plans to close them to boaters. “People choose to go on the river,” Vallario said.
Vallario said commercial rafting companies individually decide which stretches of river to run. Monday morning, the only boats on the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon were the ones searching for the lost canoeist.
In Larimer County, officials identified a kayaker who died Saturday in the Cache la Poudre River as Lynn Wilson Jinks of Union Springs, Ala. The 26-year-old was working for Bonnie Plant Farms in Pearce.
Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534
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