Missing Breckenridge raft guide may be trapped in underwater hazard
July 21, 2010
SUMMIT COUNTY – Search dogs may have picked up the scent of a missing raft guide near a dangerous hazard on the Arkansas River, but waters remain too high for close inspection.
“We’ve done just about as much as we can do safely at these kinds of flows,” said Stew Pappenfort, senior ranger at Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area.
First-year Breckenridge raft guide Kimberly Appelson, 23, was off-duty when she was ejected from a boat near Frog Rock rapid on July 11, and on Wednesday her body had still not been recovered.
Pappenfort said the search operation is among the most difficult to occur along the river.
“It could be more difficult, but this one is prolonged and hazardous,” he said.
Search dogs last week detected a scent near an underwater sieve – which works like a narrow tunnel of rocks funneling water and creating higher pressures – where Appelson was ejected. The area has been the site of at least six deaths since 1990.
Pappenfort said search efforts near the sieve were suspended Friday after “a couple scary moments.”
“It’s extremely hazardous for rescue crews,” he said. “And to not have a rescuer become another victim is always the primary objective of any search or rescue.”
Nearby signs warn that below 1,000 cubic feet per second, there is danger of entrapment in the area. The river at Frog Rock on Wednesday was flowing at 669 cfs, similar to the level it was flowing when Appelson went missing.
Searches down river are continuing this week, Pappenfort said.
He said that though he would guess Appelson’s body is trapped at the sieve near Frog Rock, the search dogs’ scent detection is less specific in whitewater conditions.
“The water is so aerated here that the scent is dispersed,” he said.
The day she disappeared, Appelson was wearing a life jacket but no helmet. Other raft occupants included Rebecca Webb, 26 of Fort Collins; Matthew Weber, 25 of Fort Collins; Kyle Blakley, 23 of Boulder; and Jared Perrio, 24 of Lafayette, La., according to a report in the Mountain Mail, a Salida newspaper.
Frog Rock rapid is about 2 miles north of Buena Vista.
SDN reporter Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.