The man who died after he fell out of his kayak on the Fryingpan River, was a part-time ski instructor for the Aspen Skiing Company. As Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports, Jerry Young was 63 years old.
It’s unclear where Young fell from his blue inflatable kayak but, he and a friend began their float at Seven Castles, just outside of downtown Basalt. Britt Queer and his girlfriend were on a restaurant patio along the Fryingpan when they saw the empty kayak and Young’s body.
"We just took off and ran down through the parking lot. We got (to the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan Rivers) and went over and thought about jumping in to get him out."
Queer says a group of fishermen pulled Young onto the bank and tried to revive him. He had a cut on his head. A swiftwater rescue crew arrived and continued resuscitation efforts, but Young was pronounced dead on-scene.
Steve Howard leads the Basalt Fire Department swiftwater team. He says the Fryingpan is high this year, with flows around 750 cubic feet per second - more than double what it normally is.
"Typically we don’t have a lot of boaters on the Fryingpan because it doesn’t have enough viable water to do it safely or easily. So now that it’s up in that 750 (cubic feet per second), all the sudden it’s become possible to boat it. It creates a new hazard that we typically don’t have to deal with."
Unlike the Roaring Fork River that’s boated often, dangerous spots on the Fryingpan don’t get communicated so boaters may be unaware of hazards like a downed tree.
"Be aware. It’s not a river that gets a lot of boating traffic. There could be new “strainers” or new obstructions that you may be the first to see, and it could be something you’re not prepared for," Howard says.
Chuck Ristine worked alongside his friend Jerry Young.
"This is a real shock for the river community, the folks in Grand Junction and ski school here," he says.
Young was a Grand Junction resident who spent his winters in Snowmass, teaching skiing.
"He had a distinctive laugh, a good nature and didn’t say anything negative about anybody. He was well-liked and well-received in the locker room at Snowmass."
Ristine says Young was dedicated and always working to improve his ski instruction. Officials with the Aspen Skiing Company say Young worked for them for ten years. He was wearing a helmet, a life jacket and a wet suit.