Pitkin County Drowning, as paged

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Dec 11, 2002
Man dies in the Punch Bowl

by Lynn Burton, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer Monday, June 30, 2008

A Longmont man died after jumping into the Punch Bowl section of the Roaring Fork River on Independence Pass east of Aspen on Sunday afternoon.

The man's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, said Pitkin County Sheriff's deputy Tricia Louthis, but it's believed he was in his 20s.

An autopsy is scheduled to determine the cause of death, but indicators suggest he died of drowning, Louthis said.

Aspen-Pitkin County Communications received a call from the Forest Service that a man had jumped into the river and not surfaced at about
4:23 p.m.

Witnesses told sheriff's deputies the man was sucked down by the water and surfaced occasionally for air. "A member of the man's group attempted to go into the water to rescue the subject, but also experienced `whirlpool-like' conditions," Louthis said.

When friends finally got the victim out of the water, about eight minutes later, he wasn't breathing and they started CPR. Emergency responders continued CPR at the scene. The victim was pronounced dead while en route to Aspen Valley Hospital.

The Punch Bowl is located within easy walking distance of Highway 82 and is a popular place to plunge into the Roaring Fork River.

The victim is believed to have jumped from a cliff 18-20 feet above the river. "He was the first one of the group to jump in," Louthis said.

Locals say that in a normal year, people usually wait until after the Fourth of July to jump into the Punch Bowl because the water is too high, fast and cold earlier in the season. This year, the river level is higher than usual due to last winter's heavy snows.

"The water level is significantly higher than normal," Louthis said.

The Pitkin County Sheriff's Department was the first emergency responder to arrive on scene about 15 minutes after the first call was placed to dispatch. The Aspen Volunteer Fire Department was next to arrive and started CPR. Mountain Rescue, Aspen Ambulance and U.S.
Forest Service personnel assisted in bringing the victim out in a high-angle carry-out.
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