CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A 13-year-old Buena Vista boy and his best friend were thrown into a frigid mountain lake by a gust of wind a week ago. The best friend survived.
Family members confirmed Friday that Makalu “Maki” Bowen perished in Clear Creek Reservoir on Nov. 14.
Searchers did not pull his body from the 33-degree water until early Monday afternoon.
Amanda Geske, Bowen’s aunt, wrote to CBS4 with details of the accident and the heart-wrenching last words of her nephew.
Bowen and his friend were duck hunting that day from a floating blind and were returning from it. Bowen’s mother watched from shore as their craft tipped over, Geske described.
“Maki had on waders,” Geske stated. “His friend graciously dove under the frigid waters, helping to pull them off, but it had seriously depleted Maki’s temperature and strength treading water with them. Maki told his friend that he was his best friend, and ‘tell my family I love them and that I have really enjoyed all of the adventures of the past couple of years.’ He was too cold to continue.”
Bowen’s mother was unable to complete a call to emergency dispatchers due to poor cell service the reservoir, but did reach Bowen’s father, Blaze Bowen, in Buena Vista. Blaze Bowen made the 15-mile drive in nine minutes, Geske stated, and dialed 9-1-1 en route.
He arrived at the same time as Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officers Kevin Madler and Zach Baker. Those rangers later said the best friend was trying to swim against a wind they estimated at 20 mph.
Seeing the best friend still struggling 100 feet off shore, Blaze Bowen “immediately stripped down to go in after the teen, but the officers told him he couldn’t go in without a rope,” Geske stated. “They gave him a rope to tie around his waist and he swam out. The distance was too great for the rope and Blaze was jerked back.”
The rangers tied a second rope to the first one, doubling the length of the line, and Blaze Bowen returned the water, according to Geske.
“When Blaze reached Maki’s friend, he was so low in the water that his nostrils were almost under the surface and he was inactive. Blaze carried him, swimming back to shore, assisted by the CPW officers on shore pulling on the rope.”
According to Geske, Maki’s best friend had an inch of ice in his hair and a body temperature of 62 degrees.
As the rescue of Maki Bowen’s best friend de-escalated into the sorrowful search for Maki’s body, his father Blaze remained focused.
“Blaze did not leave the shoreline until after Maki was recovered, 44 hours after the accident had occurred,” Geske explained.
Maki Bowen’s body was found in water 25 feet deep and about 270 yards off shore.
Geske stated Maki (pronounced ‘MACK-ee’) was named after the fifth-highest mountain in the world, Makalu, located southeast of Mt. Everest. Together, Maki and his father had scaled more than 30 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. Last December, the pair summited El Pico De Orizaba in Mexico, the North American Continent’s third-highest mountain.
Family members started a GoFundMe page to raise money for Bowen’s memorial expenses. By Friday, more than twice the family’s requested $5,000 had been donated to the account.
Blaze Bowen wrote there: “Thank you for the wonderful support and love from each of you. The outpouring of love from friends new and old is breathtaking. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.”
“As Christians,” Geske finished, “we know Maki is in Heaven and we will see him again someday. He looked at peace with a slight smile, as if just asleep, when he was brought ashore.”
A CPW spokesman told CBS4 that his rangers did not dispute any details of the family’s account of the rescue.
A spokesperson from the Chaffee County Coroner’s Office confirmed that Maki Bowen was not wearing a personal flotation device at the time of the accident.