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woman missing after rafting mishap


A Utah woman remains missing after the raft she was in overturned during an outing on the Arkansas River near Salida late Saturday evening.  Five companions in the raft made it to shore; one other was rescued by a Salida fire fighter.  The missing woman, Amanda Taylor, 31, apparently was swept downstream by the fast-moving current.

Ms. Taylor, a resident of Vernal, Utah was with six companions who put into the river at Fisherman’s Bridge south of Buena Vista intending to raft the river to the Salida boat ramp.  At about 10:30pm, a 911 call from a member of the party was received by the Chaffee County Communications Center reporting the incident.  Undersheriff John Spezze, working patrol duties at the time, found five members of the group on the west shore of the Arkansas River near County Road 160 across from Butala Construction Company.  They told Spezze their raft had overturned when it went over the diversion dam at the site, all had been ejected from the craft, and two of their party were missing, presumably still in the river. 

Spezze, familiar with the area and the river conditions at that point, immediately drove to the east side of the river on Butala property.  Arriving just a few minutes later, Spezze spotted the raft overturned in the river with one person still clinging to it.  He was joined within minutes by Salida fire fighters Brian Jefferson and Dave DePetro, Salida police officer Michael Travis, and sheriff’s deputy Jeff Stevens.  Jefferson decided that the only way to rescue the man in the river was for Jefferson to attempt to reach him by wading into the current while tethered to shore where the other three men anchored his life line.  Jefferson waded and swam toward the man until he reached a small island near him.  He tossed a throw bag to the man who was able to grab it on the second try, and Jefferson and the others assisted the man to safety.  David Torchia, 22, from Sylvania, Ohio was taken by ambulance to Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries.  The other five members of his party were reunited with him there.

The empty raft was recovered in the river a half-mile north of Salida’s F Street Bridge.  By 2am this morning, no sign of Ms. Taylor had been reported.  The search was temporarily suspended due to darkness and resumed at about 7am today.

Other members of the rafting party, in addition to Ms. Taylor and Mr. Torchia, were John Spalvins, 54, of Littleton, Colorado, owner of the boat; Alex Marzec, 22, of Rossford, Ohio; Ashley Noble, 21, of Bowling Green, Ohio; Jill Bryant, 53, residence unknown; and John Wallace, 22, of Sylvania, Ohio.

At the time of the incident, the river was running at about 1800 cfs.  Participating in the rescue effort were Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office, Salida Fire Department, Chaffee County Search and Rescue, Chaffee County Emergency Medical Services, and Colorado State Parks.