Colorado rafting guide arrested after girl’s rescue
The Denver Post
Clear Creek sheriff’s deputies arrested a rafting guide for swimming to a stranded young rafter who had tumbled from his boat on Clear Creek.
Ryan Daniel Snodgrass, a 28-year- old guide with Arkansas Valley Adventures rafting company, was charged after the Thursday incident with “obstructing government operations,” Clear Creek Sheriff Don Krueger said.
“He was told not to go in the water, and he jumped in and swam over to the victim and jeopardized the rescue operation,” said Krueger, noting that his office was deciding whether to file similar charges against another guide at the scene Thursday on Clear Creek just downstream from Kermitts Roadhouse on U.S. 6.
Duke Bradford, owner of Arkansas Valley Adventures, said Snodgrass did the right thing by contacting the 13-year-old Texas girl immediately and not waiting for the county’s volunteer search-and-rescue team to assemble ropes, rafts and personnel.
“When you have someone in sight who has taken a long swim, you need to make contact immediately,” said Bradford, a 15-year rafting guide and ski patroller from Summit County.
“This is just silly. Ryan Snod grass acted entirely appropriately. These guys came to the scene late, and there was a rescue in progress. They came in and took over an existing rescue. To leave a patient on the side of a river while you get your gear out of the car and set up a rescue system you read about in a book is simply not good policy.”
Snodgrass stayed with the girl until the other rescuers could use a line and raft to bring her and him out of the river. He was then arrested.
Snodgrass’ raft flipped about noon Thursday in the runoff swelling Clear Creek, and the girl, Victoria Hernandez, swam from the raft. Krueger said the girl was missing for 30 to 45 minutes while Snod grass and other guides searched for her. He said she swam a half-mile from the spot where the raft capsized.
Because it had been so long, Krueger said, it was no longer the rafting company’s rescue.
“They should involve themselves up to a point. They lost contact,” Krueger said. “Whether they want to say they were trying to rescue their customer, when they had lost visual contact and had no idea where their customer has been for 30 to 45 minutes, then it becomes our issue.”
Search-and-rescue outfits tend to operate from a conservative standpoint, working from the least risk – throwing a rope – to the highest risk – actually swimming – said Mike Mather, a 20-year swiftwater training instructor.
“It’s all about evaluating your risk. This guide probably has much more whitewater savvy than your traditional rescue squad, and he probably did not consider that swim very aggressive,” Mather said.
“Rescuers come onto a scene and they have one person stuck, and they don’t necessarily want to put another person in the water, especially if they don’t know that person. They are in a tough spot. They don’t have the whitewater savvy, but they do have rescue standards and protocols to follow.”
Either way, the story ends well. The teenage girl and another juvenile who fell from the raft were treated for bumps and bruises and released.
Several rafting company owners said Friday they had never heard of a rafting guide getting arrested for participating in a rescue.
“I’ve never had an issue like that, and I’m not sure anybody really has,” said John Rice, owner of Clear Creek Rafting.
Bradford said he would expect his guides to do the same thing again. His guides are professionals, he said, trained and certified in swiftwater rescue. Snod grass has been guiding for 10 years, he said.
“To jump into water and navigate a river in a swiftwater rescue is common. You get into the river and swim. You have to do it,” Bradford said. “The fact these guys don’t understand that is disturbing.
“Making contact immediately with your victim is essential. It’s not about who is in charge. It’s about the safety of a 13-year-old girl. You are going to do everything in your power to ensure the safety of your guest, and if that means in Idaho Springs you get arrested, well, I guess we’ll just get arrested.”
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