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Paddleboarder drowning at Harvey Gap State Park

Colorado Parks and Wildlife
One adult died after becoming separated from their paddleboard during high winds and waves Saturday afternoon at Harvey Gap State Park.

Witnesses said four paddleboarders, all without life jackets, were caught in high winds on Grass Valley Reservoir at the state park. One adult was not tethered to their paddleboard and failed to surface in the rough conditions.

The call for help came in at 3:18 p.m. when Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers and Garfield County Sheriff's deputies responded to the scene and confirmed there was a missing person in the water. CPW launched two boats and used sonar devices to scan the water.

The search broadened Saturday evening when CPW's Marine Evidence Recovery Team (MERT) arrived from Littleton to take over the water search with its boat and submersible ROV (remote-operated vehicle) equipped with sonar, lights and a video camera.

At 10 p.m. on Saturday, CPW's MERT team found the body and completed the recovery with its submersible drone. The body was turned over to the Garfield County Coroner to determine the exact cause of death, to identify the remains and notify the victim's relatives.

"This is a heartbreaking tragedy and we send our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of this victim," Harvey Gap State Park Manager Brian Palcer said. "We continue to urge everyone to pay close attention to weather conditions and to wear life jackets when they are on or near the water so we can avoid future tragedies like today."

Colorado has recorded 5 water recreation-related fatalities in 2024. If Saturday's death is confirmed to be a drowning, it would make 6 recreation-related drownings.

CPW is grateful to its partners at the scene including Garfield County Sheriff's Department.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds everyone that life jackets are required for all watercraft in Colorado, including paddleboards and other hand-powered watercraft. This incident serves as a reminder of the importance of having and wearing a life jacket while recreating in any body of water.

Photo: CPW
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