Candlelight vigil planned for Tim Rau
July 6, 2009
Editor’s note: Pick up Wednesday’s paper to learn more about Tim Rau. A candlelight vigil will be held at the YMCA fire ring at 8 p.m. Tuesday night, July 7.
Timothy Rau, 17, of Fraser, became the fifth drowning victim in Grand County, Utah, this year after he was ejected from his raft into the Colorado River in Westwater Canyon on Saturday, according to Chief Deputy Curt Brewer of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.
He said Rau, his mother and a friend were all ejected from their raft when it flipped in Funnel Falls Rapid at about 1 p.m. His mother and friend were able to self-rescue and get back into the raft, Brewer said.
Rau, however, was not, and a kayaker saw him disappear into Skull Rapid, the most difficult water in that stretch of river.
He was wearing a life jacket and it appeared to be functioning properly, witnesses told authorities.
Kayakers found Rau downstream about 15 minutes later, Brewer said.
“I think due to the young man’s condition, with his disease that he has … I think that prevented him from being able to support himself in the water,” Brewer said.
Rau suffered from Ataxia-Telangiectasia, which affects balance and muscle control. Though he was confined to a wheel chair, Rau’s upper body was strong and he was active, according to those who knew him.
Brewer said the kayakers were able to keep Rau above water, but the teen “was unresponsive at that time.” He said rescuers – including family and later paramedics – administered CPR for about three hours on shore and while rafting to the takeout before Rau was pronounced dead.
The group consisted of three rafts, including the one from which Rau was ejected, Brewer said. His father was in one of the other rafts. The party was well equipped and highly experienced, he said.
It took the group about one hour to float from the scene of the accident to the Cisco takeout, where the group was able to call 9-1-1 and paramedics with Careflight from Grand Junction administered advanced life support, Brewer said.
Funnel Falls Rapid is rated Class III, which is considered moderately difficult. Skull Rapid is rated Class III to IV and can reach Class IV-plus at very high flows, according to experienced boaters.
One of the other five drownings in the county this year occurred on Memorial Day when a 57-year-old Ohio man’s raft flipped in Skull Rapid, Brewer said.
Rafters floating Westwater Canyon put in at the Westwater Ranger Station just west of the Colorado-Utah state line. They take out at Cisco, about 45 miles northwest of Moab.
The river there was flowing at about 17,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the time of the accident, Brewer said. That’s high, but not extremely so, he said, though that flow “produces some pretty good rapids down there.”
The average flow this time of year near Westwater Canyon is about 10,000 cfs, according U.S. Geological Survey streamflow data.