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Missing Colorado Springs man believed to be have died in rafting accident

July 12, 2017 Updated: July 13, 2017 at 6:11 am
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A raft floats the Arkansas River through Browns Canyon between Buena Vista and Salida in this Gazette file photo.

The Fremont County Sheriff's Office is searching for a Colorado Springs man who reportedly went missing while rafting the Arkansas River in Royal Gorge last month.

Eric Ashby, 31, was reported missing by his family July 8. Investigators now believe he may have been the person a caller reported seeing fall out a raft that flipped near the Sunshine Falls on June 28. Multiple people went into the river and all but one of them made it to shore.

Crews including, sheriff's deputies, Canon City Fire Department, Fremont Search and Rescue Swift Water rescue team, Colorado Parks officers searched by helicopter and along the river from the scene of the reported accident downstream to the Pink House recreation site until dark, but found nothing. No other calls were received about a rafting accident or a missing person.

Deputies are investigating the missing person report as an unrecovered body.

Ashby was not wearing a life vest or a helmet, deputies said.

Another man died in a commercial rafting accident in the same area in late April. The victim, whose name was not released, was among three people who fell into the river. When rescuers arrived at the remote spot, all of them were out of the river, but one man was unresponsive. The Fremont County coroner ruled the death an accidental drowning.

Sunshine Falls is on a particularly difficult part of the Arkansas River, rafting companies say online. "You definitely won't have time to look around you while going through Sunshine Falls," according to Echo Canyon River Expeditions. It's "legendary" and "one of the biggest rapids in Colorado," according to the River Runners. Arkansas River Tours called Sunshine Falls "infamous."

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