Basalt police and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation are investigating the death of a man who was found in an irrigation ditch Monday morning.
The body was found in a wooded area halfway between Basalt Avenue and Big O Tires. The victim was found face up in the Williams 2 Ditch just before the waterway dives under West Cody Lane and Highway 82, according to authorities. The body was snagged on an object in the water, according to an officer on the scene.
“It was a suspicious incident that we’re treating like a possible crime,” Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott said.
CBI sent investigators from Grand Junction on Monday. They were working at the scene throughout the afternoon. An autopsy will be performed today in Grand Junction, according to Knott. He said he didn’t know yet if the man drowned or if there was a different cause of death. Authorities didn’t have a positive identification Monday, Knott said. The man appeared to be between 30 and 40 years of age, authorities said. Personal belongings were found in the area, Knott said, so police are using those to establish the man’s identity.
Two landscape workers who were mowing and weeding the vacant lot east of Big O Tires found the body around 7:30 a.m. They flagged down a Basalt-area rancher who takes care of the ditch. The workers also reported the discovery to their boss, who called authorities at 7:38 a.m.
The Williams 2 Ditch supplies water to various ranches and properties around the Southside subdivision. The head gate at the Roaring Fork River was opened more than one month ago, according to a source that uses the water.
There is another head gate by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s main parking lot at Basalt. The water goes into a culvert underneath Basalt Avenue, and then the water travels in a ditch for a short distance until it is piped underneath West Cody Lane and Highway 82.
The culvert at Basalt Avenue doesn’t appear large enough for a body to pass through, suggesting the body ended up in the ditch somewhere along the stretch between Basalt Avenue and Cody Lane. Knott confirmed that it didn’t appear the body could have gotten into the ditch upstream from Basalt Avenue.
The body was found in an area where the ditch is open but lined with willows, cottonwoods and other vegetation. Basalt police officers investigated the scene Monday morning with aid from Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies. Officers checked the brush around the scene for clues about what happened but didn’t reach any conclusions about how the body got there, according to Basalt Police Sgt. Stu Curry.
“That’s still under investigation,” he said.
An official with the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office removed the body from the scene late in the morning.
Basalt police are asking anyone with information about the incident or the identity of the victim to call 970-927-4316.