Water diversion helped crews find girl’s body
Reducing the amount of water in the Roaring Fork River overnight was the key to finding the body of a 16-year-old Kansas girl Thursday who died after being swept downriver from the Devil’s Punchbowl on Wednesday, a fire official said.
“They brought the water down lower so we could see areas we couldn’t see yesterday,” said Parker Lathrop, deputy chief of the Aspen Fire Department. “As soon as the water level dropped, she was right there.”
The girl, Jamie Tran, was from Wichita, Kansas, according to a statement from Pitkin County deputy coroner Eric Hansen. An autopsy is pending.
Her body was found around 9:15 a.m. Thursday about 100 yards below the Punchbowl after about 15 minutes of searching, according to Lathrop and a statement from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. Search crews combed the same area Wednesday but could not see the body, he said.
Lathrop said her body was pinned under the water by an obstruction. After Tran was found, volunteers with Mountain Rescue Aspen helped haul her body up a cliff band and out of the backcountry, he said.
The teen had been visiting the area with her family Wednesday and tried to swim across the river below the Punchbowl before she was swept downstream. Valerie MacDonald, Pitkin County’s emergency manager, said she contacted officials from the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday and they agreed to begin diverting water from Grizzly Reservoir on Independence Pass to the Front Range. Because Twin Lakes is full, the water diversions that might have gone to the Front Range in a drier year have been flowing down the Roaring Fork River for the past few weeks, substantially increasing the amount of water in the river for this time of year.
The diversion lessened the flow down the Roaring Fork River by 100-to-150 cubic feet per second, which impacted flows downriver at the Punchbowl area by about 4 a.m., MacDonald said.
Tran was first reported missing at 4:34 p.m. Wednesday, according to Jesse Steindler, patrol captain with the Sheriff’s Office. Not long after, search crews fanned out along the banks of the river and used an Aspen Fire Department drone to search for her until nightfall, but did not find her.
Initial reports indicated the girl was in her early 20s and may have jumped in to the Punchbowl, though those reports proved incorrect, Steindler said. Agencies that also helped in the search and mission included Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Authority; Aspen Ambulance District; the Aspen Hope Center; Aspen Police Department; Glenwood Springs Fire Department; Mountain Rescue Aspen; Garfield County Search and Rescue; and Carbondale Rural Fire Protection District.
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