SALIDA, Colo. -- A Sylvania man escaped with bruises in a whitewater rafting accident on the Arkansas River over the weekend after the raft fell down a dam and dumped its seven occupants, and he had to be rescued from the water. A Utah woman remains missing, and a second Sylvania resident, a Rossford man and a Bowling Green woman were among five others on the raft who made it to shore.
David Torchia, 22, a 2010 graduate of St. Francis de Sales High School and currently a senior at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, was treated for bruises and hypothermia at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center, according to the Chaffee County Sheriff‘s Office. The missing woman, Amanda Taylor, 31, of Vernal, was reportedly swept downstream by the fast-moving current when their raft overturned during an outing on the Arkansas River near Salida late Saturday evening, according to the sheriff’s office.
“That was a near-death experience I didn’t think I’d be getting out of,” Mr. Torchia, a camp consultant during the summer at Rocky Mountain Village Easter Seals Camp in Empire, Colo., said. “We were all being tossed around. It felt like being in a washing machine, being tossed around and turned around without any control of things.”
He said they had just missed the boat ramp in the dark about 10 p.m. Saturday when the raft fell about 8 feet down a diversion dam. He said the raft ended upright but then got sucked in underneath a waterfall and overturned, dumping everyone in the water. He eventually ended up underneath the overturned raft and then hung on to its side for about an hour in the frigid water before he was rescued.
Sheriff deputies said Mr. Torchia and his companions put the raft put into the river at Fisherman’s Bridge south of Buena Vista, at about 4 p.m., with the intent to arrive at the Salida boat ramp about 10 p.m. Five members of the group were found on the west shore of the Arkansas River near County Road 160 across from Butala Construction Company shortly after the Chaffee County Communications Center received a 911 call from a member of the party about 10:30 p.m.
Rafting with Ms. Taylor and Mr. Torchia were John Spalvins, 54, of Littleton, Colo., who owned the raft; Alex Marzec, 22, of Rossford, Ashley Noble, 21, of Bowling Green, Jill Bryant, 53, of Estes Park, Colo., and John Wallace, 22, of Sylvania.
Mr. Torchia was found minutes later, in the river, on its east side, clinging to the overturned raft. Salida firefighters used a rope to wade and swim to the raft and then a throw bag to bring him to safety.
The empty raft was later recovered in the river a half-mile north of Salida’s F Street Bridge about 2 a.m. Sunday, without any sighting of Ms. Taylor reported. The search for her was continuing today, said County Undersheriff John Spezze.
Mr Torchia said everybody wore a life jacket.