Green Mountain Reservoir cliff diving spot off limits after fatal fall
August 7, 2017
The U.S. Forest Service has banned access to a popular yet treacherous cliff jumping spot at Green Mountain Reservoir, the site of a tragic death last week and an attraction that has been growing in popularity and keeping first responders busy with rescues.
Last Wednesday, Aug. 2, 27-year-old James Cummings of Denver died after jumping from the cliffs at around 4:45 p.m. and not resurfacing. Friends were unable to immediately find him, but a sonar boat located his body in about 70 feet of water the next day.
Summit County Coroner Regan Wood later ruled the death an accidental drowning. Based on a forensic body exam, investigators believe Cummings struck underwater rocks that rendered him unconscious.
First responders say they routinely have to rescue cliff divers throughout the summer and stress that, despite their popularity, the cliffs are extremely dangerous to jump from.
While the water is deep in some areas below the cliffs, there are many shallow spots below the surface that are hidden by low water visibility.
Over the weekend, temporary signs were put in place noting that the area is now closed indefinitely to climbing, jumping and diving. Officials hope the move might at least stem the tide of divers that have been flocking to the cliffs in recent years, attracted in part by the spread of videos showing people jumping from them.
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This summer, the road passing by the rocks was becoming so crowded with illegally parked cars that the Summit County Sheriff's Office had to post new signs and beef up enforcement.
"It was just a local swimming rock at one time, but now you've got YouTube videos, GoPro videos, even drone videos," Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said. "That increases the fascination and the popularity."
After the no-parking signs were put up, people could still access the rocks by boat or on foot. Now, climbing onto the rocks at all will be a class-2 misdemeanor punishable by fines and possible arrest. Other federal penalties may apply as well.
"It will absolutely have an impact on decreasing the likelihood of this happening again, but obviously there are still people who are going to break the law," FitzSimons said. "This will at least keep the honest people honest."
Going back to 2003, Cummings was the second person to die jumping from the cliffs. The other death over the period occurred in 2005, but the cause of death was blunt-force trauma, not drowning.
Cummings' death was at least the 15th at a Colorado water attraction this year, Denver magazine Westword reported, although the vast majority of those have been during whitewater rafting outings.
Before last week, 16-year-old Jefte Flores of Frisco was the last person to have drowned in Green Mountain Reservoir, although he had not been cliff jumping when he died in August 2015.
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