By Rick Sallinger


LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — A 26-year-old man died after a tubing accident on the Poudre River on the 4th of July. Eight other people were rescued in the incident near the town of LaPorte.

The victim has been identified as Matthew Spates of Fort Collins. The cause of death is drowning, according to the Larimer County Coroner’s Office.

(credit: CBS)

It happened near Lions Open Space on Overland Trail a little before 3:15 p.m. Thursday. Officials say one person was stuck in a tree in the river. Another was trapped on an island in the river.

(credit: Poudre Fire)

“Bystanders reportedly saw rafters in need of assistance and heard calls for help,” the Poudre Fire Authority said. “Crews located eight people on an island-like structure in the Poudre River about a quarter mile east of Overland Trail. One patient was receiving CPR which responders were able to take over.”

(credit: CBS)

One person was airlifted to the hospital.

(credit: CBS)

“None of our tubers had flotation devices, none of them had helmets. Some didn’t have shoes,” said Poudre Fire Cpt. Ryan Thomas.

(credit: Poudre Fire)

A total of 27 Poudre Fire Authority firefighters assisted in the rescue that was near a sign that warned of no tubing allowed.

Thomas noted several of the tubes were tied together making it more dangerous and that the tubes did not appear “river worthy.” The water was only waste deep where the incident took place.

(credit: Poudre Fire)

“River rescues are resource intensive and physically intensive for responders,” officials said. “Responders are also needed down river as a second string of support in case anyone, a patient or responder, is carried down river.”

(credit: Poudre Fire)

“We can’t underestimate this river,” said the battalion chief on scene.

CBS4 met some others taking on the river but appeared far better equipped.

(credit: CBS)

 “We have helmets, knives if we get tangled knives on our life jackets we got a throw rope,” said Kyle Dick.

PFA responded to 21 water rescues in 2018 and there is one missing rafter this season.

PFA never sees the Poudre River as safe or recommends river recreation, but if you do choose to recreate in or near the river please consider the following tips:

  • Always wear a personal flotation device that is rated for your activity. Not all life vests are the same and the Poudre River is currently flowing high and fast.
  • Remember that the river water is significantly colder than you may anticipate. It is currently around 48 degrees Fahrenheit and people can easily experience hypothermia when in the water.
  • Scout your route the day of your water recreation. The river can change in a matter of hours. An area that appears free of obstacles in the morning could have several obstacles by the afternoon.
  • Float sober – the unpredictability and variety of obstacles in the river requires your full, unimpaired attention.
  • Always crawl out of the river to avoid foot entrapment near the shore.
  • Never underestimate the power of the water.
  • Reach or Throw, Don’t Go: If someone is caught in fast moving water, reach out to them or throw a rope to the person in the water. Don’t go into the water yourself or you may also become in need of rescuing. Call 911 immediately with as many details as possible about the location.

Rick Sallinger

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