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2 women die Friday in Gunnison Basin, bringing Colorado’s spring runoff death toll to at least 5

A Colorado Springs woman, Roberta Sophia Rodriguez, is also missing in the South Fork of the Rio Grande

A kayaker paddles through the Five Points rapids on the Arkansas River in Colorado's Big Horn Sheep Canyon on June 12, 2019. Flows in the canyon that day were reported at 4,240 cubic feet per second. (Mike Sweeney, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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Two women died in separate accidents Friday in the Gunnison River Basin, bringing the death toll amid spring runoff to at least five people as Colorado waterways rage after a winter of deep snowfall.

A Colorado Springs woman, Roberta Sophia Rodriguez, is also missing in the South Fork of the Rio Grande. Authorities say she went into the furious waters in recent days and hasn’t been since.

Officials have been warning people planning to recreate on Colorado’s rivers and creeks to be extremely cautious. Forecasters have cautioned that peak runoff could continue into next month.

Even more snow fell in the high country on Friday and Saturday, prolonging the runoff.

The first woman to die on the Gunnison River on Friday was apparently paddle boarding when she fell into swift currents near County Road 32, just west of Gunnison.

“Shortly after entering the river the 31-year-old female lost control of her board and later got hung up on a tree that was in the water,” the county sheriff’s office said in a news release.

She was pulled from the water and eventually taken to Grand Junction for medical care before dying. The Gunnison County Coroner’s Office identified her on Monday as 31-year-old Sarah Schultz of Oklahoma.

MORE: “You fall in and you are not getting out”: Rio Grande in southern Colorado closed because of high runoff

About two hours later, a 65-year-old woman kayaking near where the Gunnison River becomes the Blue Mesa Reservoir, near Colorado 149 and U.S. 50, died in an apparent accident. The coroner on Monday identified her as 65-year-old Petra Lachance, of Penrose.

Frank Vader, the deputy Gunnison County coroner, said Lachance was kayaking in the Blue Mesa Reservoir before she died. She had been out on the water with her husband before the pair split up. Lachance didn’t return.

“Her incident was not witnessed, that we know of,” Vader said.

Vader noted that it was a windy day. “It’s possible it was a factor. We just don’t know,” he said. “We found the vessel upside down.”

Vader said both women are presumed to have died by accidental drowning.

On Thursday morning, a woman died during a commercial rafting trip down the San Juan River near Pagosa Springs. The Durango Herald reports she was tossed into the water when her raft flipped and carried about 3 miles downstream in a span of just 15 or 20 minutes.

Earlier this month, a man from Texas died when the raft in which he was riding on the Arkansas River flipped in Fremont County. Also, another man died while rafting on the Eagle River near Avon.

Updated on Monday, June 24, 2019 at 11:50 a.m.: This story has been updated to add additional details on the Gunnison River Basin deaths and to identify the two women who died.

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