DENVER (CBS4/AP) – A search that resumed Sunday for a man missing after flipping off his inner tube in rapids on the South Platte River has been called off.
Sheridan police were called to the river near West Oxford Avenue around 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Witnesses say the 20-year-old surfaced and went under several times.
The area of rapids where the tuber went under is called Union Chutes.
Rescue crews combed the banks of the river and stopped looking for him at dark before resuming the search on Sunday. But the search ended in the afternoon after efforts to find the man didn’t turn up anything.
“Today Denver Fire personnel floated the river from the area where the victim was last seen,” Sheridan Police Chief Mark Campbell said. “None of the searches have resulted in any sign of the victim. At this time the search efforts have ended.”
The man was one of four tubers who were out celebrating the missing man’s upcoming 21st birthday. The others got out of the river.
“He was so tired,” Karen Curry said.
Curry is a lifeguard who risked her own life to attempt to save the man.
“I swam out as far I could until the undercurrent started pulling me under,” she said. “And then I started running and I stayed parallel with him so he could go up and down. I kept telling him to get on his back.”
Curry says fatigue was taking its toll when she lost sight of him.
“I saw him go down and I tried to go back in and his young friend went with me and we went out, and nothing, we’ve looked,” she said.
Another eyewitness, Kristin Steinberger, also saw him go under.
“He started walking across in the water, waist deep, and he tried to walk over to the bank and the current swept him under,” Steinberger said.
Kaitlyn Riebe recognized how the current was going to grab him and called 911.
“He started spinning in the current and he was fighting, fighting, fighting; and I saw his hands go up and in distress and I was already on the phone,” Riebe said.
Steve Pagano’s son was one of the three tubers with the victim who went under.
“It’s rather tragic. My family has known him for a while, so we’re really upset, and it’s affecting my son quite a bit and my daughter too,” Pagano said.
“The family has been notified that the search has been called off, and again, we would like to offer our condolences to that family for the loss during this challenging time that they’re going through,” Melissa Taylor with the Denver Fire Department said.
“Sheridan police are discouraging any type of tubing or rafting activities in the Platte River within the city limits due to swift water conditions,” Campbell said.
Tim Aex, a former search and rescuer out on a family bike ride on Sunday was surprised they had even attempted tubing in the rushing river.
“I’ve actually had a lot of experience in kayaking and rafting, and that’s always like, ‘That would be kind of fun in a kayak,’ because I can kayak in Class 4. But I would say in a tube, you have no chance,” Aex said.
U.S. Geological Survey hydrologic technician Sue Hartley says recent rains have created some of the highest water levels in 20 years.
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