Two women who died in separate water-related accidents along the Gunnison River on Friday, June 21 have been identified. Both were visitors to the area.
Sarah Schultz, 31, of Oklahoma, died at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, where she was flown after a paddle boarding accident, said Gunnison County Deputy Coroner Frank Vader.
The second victim is identified as Petra Lachance, 65, of Penrose, Colo., who perished while kayaking alone on Blue Mesa Reservoir.
Vader said drowning is the suspected cause of death in both incidents. Both women reportedly were wearing life vests at the time.
The areas where the accidents occurred are both downstream of sections closed in recent weeks by Gunnison County Sheriff John Gallowich as a result of high water.
The local Swiftwater Rescue Team was first summoned to the Gunnison River on Friday at about 11:15 a.m. Schultz reportedly entered the river at County Road 32, or McCabe’s Lane, and shortly after lost control of her paddle board, later becoming hung upon on a tree in the water.
Sheriff’s deputies, members of the Swiftwater Rescue Team, Gunnison firefighters and EMS responded. Schultz was taken to Gunnison Valley Hospital and later flown to Grand Junction but did not survive.
The incident continues to be investigated, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
At approximately 2:10 p.m. Friday, the Sheriff’s Office received notification that National Park Service officials had located Lachance, the victim of an apparent kayaking accident on Blue Mesa Reservoir. Sheriff’s deputies responded to the area near the Lake City Bridge, or intersection of Hwy. 149 and Hwy. 50. Lachance was removed from the water and CPR was performed with negative results.
Deputy Coroner Vader said Lachance and her husband were camping at nearby Stevens Creek Campground on the north side of Blue Mesa. Early that morning, the couple ventured onto the lake in kayaks. However, Lachance’s husband returned to camp and his wife indicated she planned to follow a couple hours later. She was last seen near the submerged townsite of Iola, near the opposite side of the reservoir from where the couple was camping. When she didn’t return, her husband reportedly walked to the nearby Gunnison Lakeside RV Park to phone authorities at about 12:45 p.m.
Not long after, Vader said Lachance and her upside-down vessel were found washed up on the shore near the Lake City Bridge. A net, but no fishing pole, was found in Lachance’s boat. Vader said wind may have played a factor in the accident.
Look for more information in the Thursday, June 27 edition of the Times.