‘River safety is no joke’

Restrictions on Clear Creek include swimming and tubing

Posted 7/9/19
The odds of Clear Creek’s freezing cold, swift-moving moving water were against her. But the timing of a Friday afternoon shift change at the Coors Brewery in Golden, and the selflessness and quick …

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‘River safety is no joke’

Restrictions on Clear Creek include swimming and tubing

Posted

The odds of Clear Creek’s freezing cold, swift-moving moving water were against her.

But the timing of a Friday afternoon shift change at the Coors Brewery in Golden, and the selflessness and quick reactions of some the brewery’s employees, helped save a woman’s life on June 28.

The woman, who the Coors Brewery employees learned was part of a church group from Brazil, was tubing in Clear Creek with what the Coors employees described as a pool toy, with no life jacket or helmet.

Travis Cordova, a pre-bottle specialist at the brewery, pulled into the parking lot to begin his shift at about 2 p.m. when he noticed a group of bystanders whose attention was on some sort of commotion in the river.

Cordova saw the “tail end” of the woman floating out-of-control, just as she went under the bridge, he said. Cordova jumped into his vehicle and drove downstream in attempt to reach her before she got caught in a nearby undertow and was beyond rescue.

But his first attempt to get her out of the water was unsuccessful.

“I had no choice but to jump in the river and grab her,” Cordova said.

By this time, other Coors employees, either arriving for their shift or just finishing up for the day, noticed Cordova’s rescue attempts and joined in to help. They were Louis Gomez, a senior specialist in finishing; Sean Nash, a senior specialist in brewing; Jacqueline Harmon, a senior specialist in fermenting; and Michael Harris, a beer processing specialist.

The group effort and second attempt at rescuing the woman were successful — she was pulled out of the river only about 200 yards from the brewery’s wastewater treatment plant.

Golden Fire Rescue reported that the woman was the second in her group that had been displaced from a tube and required rescue. Both were transported to the hospital in fair condition.

Cordova, of Douglas County, is an experienced angler, he said.

“I know river safety is no joke,” Cordova said during a press conference at the Coors Brewery on July 1. “If you’re going to get in these rivers, you have to have some sort of experience swimming.”

The woman’s near-drowning incident happened just days before the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Golden Police Department put temporary limitations on what river activities are allowed on Clear Creek until water levels decrease.

Citing fast-moving water and depth of the river, the restrictions, effective July 1, are put in place as safety measures as snowpack melts and increases river flow in the coming weeks.

The restrictions apply to Clear Creek within the City of Golden, including Vanover Park, and unincorporated Jefferson County. Prohibited activities include swimming and body-surfing, and use of all single-chambered, air-inflated devices such as belly boats and inner tubes.

Violators may be issued a summons for a class 2 petty offense, which is punishable by a fine of $100.

Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, whitewater canoes and multi-chambered, professionally-guided rafts and river boards are exempt. However, those who use these devices must be equipped with a Type I, Type III or Type V Coast Guard-approved paddling life jacket and helmet designed for water use.

Jefferson County Open Space has two points of entry to Clear Creek — The Big Easy and Mayhem Gulch, which are west of Tunnel 2 on Highway 6 along the Peaks to Plains Trail. Both of these are in unincorporated Jefferson County, so the current river restrictions apply.

These two spots are marked with signage noting the restrictions, said Matt Robbins, the community connections manager for Jeffco Open Space. However, Open Space’s concern is people not making it to the access points and getting in the river where there’s no signage of the restrictions, Robbins said.

Even if not getting in the river, though, people should be aware of the river’s dangers and safety precautions should be taken seriously, Robbins said.

“We want to make sure people are safe and use good judgement near the water,” Robbins said.

Though the restrictions are in place for activities that take place in the river, the areas along creek beds can also be dangerous, said Shellie Salser, commander for the Wheat Ridge Police Department and the city’s emergency manager.

People should use caution when picnicking, fishing from the banks or hiking alongside rivers, even where water activities are not restricted, Salser said.

“Keep a close eye on children,” she said, “and keep them away from creek beds.”

Wheat Ridge’s Anderson Park recently re-opened following a lengthy renovation, which included a new access point to Clear Creek. However, Salser recommends that rather than swimming in a river that’s potentially dangerous, people take advantage of other recreational water amenities available, such as the park’s Anderson Pool. The outdoor pool features a 180-foot water slide as well as other interactive water features — and lifeguards.

“We don’t want anybody getting hurt,” Salser said. “There are great opportunities for people to still be able to swim, but in a safer environment.”

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