DENVER (KDVR) — A woman was rescued after falling into swift-moving rapids while whitewater rafting on the Royal Gorge part of the Arkansas River on Saturday.
The woman was not injured and brought to safety, but the experience was quite scary to witness. Another rafter who pulled the woman out of the water recorded the rescue on his GoPro.
“I was pretty scared for her because I knew it was rough and I don’t want to be in the water either, so it was scary I think for everyone,” Chris Dean, who rescued the woman, said.
While rafting on the Sunshine Falls area of the Royal Gorge with Performance Tours, the raft the woman was in hit fast-moving water and she got tossed out. As all rafting companies require, the woman was wearing a life vest.
“When we went into that falls we hit pretty hard and she bumped into me and fell off to the side,” Dean said.
Water is running high on the Arkansas in that area which means the rapids are moving fast, usually in the Class 4 to Class 5 range (Class 5 is expert level). Rafting outfitters give a thorough rundown of the risks and what to do if someone ends up in the water before they even launch the raft.
”It was pretty intense for me, but I just had to react and get her out the best we could. Everyone was working together on the raft. The guide was giving us direction too,” Dean said. “They prepare you the whole time on the bus ride to get on the raft and make sure everyone’s gear is on correctly.”
Rafting outfitter prepared for these types of incidents
Colorado has a plethora of whitewater rafting which means outfitters have to make sure their guides are trained and skilled in swift-water rescues.
“Commercial outfitters in the state of Colorado are excellent. We all have excellent safety records and we put safety at the utmost of what we do. It’s our primary concern out there and getting people safely down the river,” Performance Tours Operations Manager Jim Crane said.
While it is rare for rafters to fall into the water on commercial trips, Crane said guides are expertly trained to handle those situations in case it happens.
What kind of training do whitewater rafting guides have?
There is extensive training required for guides who work for commercial rafting companies. And the guides have to be able to properly explain safety protocol to their rafters.
“We put them through every scenario that would happen. We spend a lot of time in really cold water. Our goal is never to scare someone from being a river guard but to prepare them for those high-stress situations,” Crane said.
The rafting companies send out multiple rafts on tours as Crane said there is safety in numbers. As you could see in the video of the rescue, there was another raft ahead of the one the woman fell out of in case she drifted too far downriver. That raft could have possibly maneuvered to grab her out of the water.
“We’re always watching out for each other. Safety is our number one concern and what we always stress to our guides.
“All of our trip leaders, when they come back, fill out a trip leader report that tells us how the trip went, if they did have swimmers, were those swimmers secured and we tally those so we can know exactly how many swimmers we had over the course of the summer and it is a very low percentage,” Crane said.