Two Dead, Toddler Hospitalized After Wind and Waves Capsize Kayaks at Colorado State Park

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Two adults are dead and one toddler is hospitalized after high winds capsized their kayaks while at Lake Pueblo State Park in Colorado over the weekend. 

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the deadly accident occurred on Sunday (October 23rd). Witnesses told officials that a kayak carrying an adult and child capsized in heavy waves. Winds gusted between 35 and 45 mph. Two more kayaks, each carrying a single adult, attempted to help the first kayak. But the kayaks ended up capsizing as well. 

After a call for help at approximately 3:23 p.m., Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Ranger Kristopher Gard arrived in his truck. Rangers Joe Portteus and Josh Kloshime arrived by boat to find the four victims in the water. Among the victims was a toddler that was in obvious distress. Gard swam and grabbed the child. He then performed CPR until emergency medical crews arrived on the scene. 

The child was life-flighted by UCHealth’s Lifeline helicopter to a Colorado Springs hospital. One adult victim was recovered by Portteus and Kloshime. Park Manager Joe Stadterman launched an underwater drone to find the other missing adult. However, the water was too rough for the search-and-rescue boat to operate its SONAR equipment. 

Stadterman was able to locate the remains of two adults in water about 20 feet deep. Both bodies were sent to the Pueblo County Coroner’s office to determine the exact cause of death and identify the victims. “This is another heartbreaking tragedy and we send our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of these victims,” Stadterman said. “We continue to urge everyone to pay close attention to weather conditions and to wear life jackets when they are on or near the water so we can avoid future tragedies like today.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife further reports that these were the seventh and eighth water-related deaths in 2022 at Lake Pueblo. Prior to Sunday’s accident, there had been five drownings and one death due to a boating accident. 

Colorado has notably recorded nearly 40 water-related fatalities in 2022. If the deaths on Sunday are declared drownings, they would make 36 recreation-related drawings. The number of water-related fatalities this year has nearly doubled from last year, which saw 22. There were 34 total water-related deaths in 2020.

Colorado Park and Wildlife recently spoke about water-related deaths in the state. “Some common themes we saw in some of the drownings this year was the use of alcohol and people swimming from shore, on innertubes, or paddling,” CPW Boating Safety and Registrations Program Manager Grant Brown revealed

The agency noted that those who hang out by water are to follow water safety tips, including wearing life jackets when on or near water.