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Authorities unlikely to restrict access to Poudre River near Fort Collins despite deaths

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Authorities say they will not restrict access to the Poudre (POO-der) River near Fort Collins after the swollen waterway claimed its third victim in less than two weeks.

Larimer County Sheriff's spokeswoman Jennifer Hillmann likened the dangers to winter driving, noting that while roads may become icy, it is rare for officials to shut them down entirely.

"It is drawing a fine line between wanting people to realize the river is dangerous and actually enforcing restrictions that would make it illegal for them to be out there," she told the Coloradoan (http://noconow.co/1pf4gaY ) for a story published Friday.

"If they want to raft the Poudre, we are suggesting they go through a professional company," she added.

Calls to restrict access to the river came after a 25-year-old woman was thrown from a private raft on Wednesday and was later found downstream floating face down. During Memorial Day weekend, a 14-year-old Greeley teen and his uncle died after the boy fell into the water and his uncle went in after him.

Including Wednesday's death, 15 people have died as the result of accidents on the Poudre River's course through Larimer County since 1997, according to records from the coroner's office.

While the sheriff's office said it is evaluating the river situation daily, the types of restrictions many have called for likely would not have made a difference in the recent deaths. That's because those limitations usually apply only to single-chamber vessels such as inner tubes, not sophisticated rafts like those used by commercial rafting companies.

Inner tubes and similar vessels are prohibited on the river as it flows through Fort Collins.

With a 100-day season, even a two-week restriction on the river would leave lasting effects on the region's rafting companies, and a complete shutdown would be a crushing blow.

"I don't know if we'd actually make it through that," said Brad Modesitt, who owns Mountain Whitewater Descents. The company has more than 50 employees and sees about 25 per cent of its business in June.

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Information from: Fort Collins Coloradoan, http://www.coloradoan.com

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