Drone photograph leads to discovery of dead kayaker in Colorado lake

North Lake near Trinidad. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall (Wikimedia Commons)

The report of a missing kayaker on Monday, April 6, triggered what would turn into a multi-day search on North Lake, west of Trinidad, Colorado. Witnesses saw a kayaker capsize, not to be seen again.

Search efforts conducted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife started promptly after an 11 AM report, continuing through Wednesday and utilizing multiple local departments. Thanks to an underwater drone with sonar, lights, and a video camera, along with a dive team, the body was eventually found and recovered. It was given to the coroner at 3 PM on Wednesday.

Due to the rocky nature of the lakebed, sonar was less effective and difficult to use. However, an image captured by the underwater drone ultimately led to the recovery of the body. Official identification and determination of cause of death will be carried out by the Las Animas County Coroner’s Office.

“These searches are difficult even with the best equipment and best-trained divers,” said Grant Brown of CPW Marine Evidence Recovery Team. “This is a good reminder to people recreating in our mountain lakes that the water is very cold and hypothermia can set in very quickly. Please be careful and wear personal flotation devices whenever you go on the water.”

Sudden immersion into a frigid lake or river can cause cramping, shock, and loss of breathing control, leading to drowning. This is one reason why wearing a floatation device is so important while participating in water sports. Even talented swimmers and athletes can become quickly incapacitated by the effects of cold water. It was unclear what safety devices, if any, the kayaker was using at the time of the accident.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, North Lake was built in 1907 to provide drinking water to Trinidad. A water report released in 2019 shows that this is still the case. The lake is part of the 840-acre state wildlife area and is found along Colorado Highway 12 at approximately 8,500 feet above sea level.

Thanks goes out to first responders on this mission, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office, the Stonewall Fire Department, and the Summit County Search and Rescue team.

As COVID-19 continues to spread in Colorado, the public is advised to avoid participating in risky activities that may pull resources from pandemic response. Stay close to home and participate in safe activities while practicing proper social distancing.

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