Tragedy struck June 12 on Antero Reservoir when 78-year-old Homer “Jan” Bower of Dillon fell from his boat and drowned.
Circumstances were such that a successful rescue conceivably could have been carried out by boaters nearby, but no help was rendered while Bower struggled to stay afloat in water temperatures below 50 degrees.
According to Park County Coroner David Kintz Jr., there was no sign of mechanical problems, and no indication that drugs or alcohol were factors in the incident, but that results from a toxicology examination were still pending.
According to a witness who spoke with Kintz after the accident, a family in a pontoon boat got very close to Bower and circled him at least once while he was still on the water’s surface.
Unfortunately, no rescue attempt was made at that time, as the operator of the pontoon boat opted to go ashore and call 911 instead.
The Hartsel Fire Department arrived on the scene within 15 minutes of receiving the call, but too late to save the victim.
There is no law that requires citizens to render aid in a situation like the one that occurred in Bower’s drowning. There is also no law that would result in charges being filed against a citizen attempting to render aid unsuccessfully.
“I would just call this a breech of fisherman or boater etiquette,” Kintz said. “Anyone on the water or partaking in any recreational activity should be cognizant of the fact that others might need help, and they should think hard about taking action. People should just have a willingness to assist others when the situation calls for it.”
Marty Freedman, a boat inspector who was on duty when the incident occurred, felt similarly to Kintz.
“Mr. Bower was a friend of mine, and I was the last person to shake his hand before he went out fishing that day,” Freedman said. “I feel like the operator of the pontoon boat was clearly negligent in his actions. Cramping begins very quickly when you are exposed to water temperatures like these, and Mr. Bower needed immediate assistance.”
Freedman added that the pontoon boat operator stated later that he did not want to traumatize his grandchildren who were in the boat with him, and therefore made the decision to call 911 instead. Kintz also confirmed a similar statement.
“Basically, they didn’t do anything,” Freedman said. “We should all ask ourselves what action we would want someone else to take if we were drowning, and act accordingly.”
Finally, Freedman added that fishing alone is always a risky practice, especially in cold-water conditions.
“My guess is that in water temperatures like the ones at Antero that day, a person doesn’t have but about four or five minutes before they are in trouble. People should always think twice before boating alone, under any circumstances.”