Body in river likely not missing kayaker

Authorities are trying to determine the identity of a man whose body was found in the Colorado River east of Rifle on Saturday, and it’s not looking likely at this point that the body is that of a kayaker who went missing near Marble on May 31.

“That was obviously a case that we looked at real closely. At this time we kind of preliminarily ruled that one out,” said Lanny Grant, a Garfield County deputy coroner.

The Garfield Sheriff’s Office said rafters found the body in the river and contacted dispatchers by cellphone Saturday afternoon. Grant said it was found about 3.5 miles east of Rifle.

Garfield County Search and Rescue retrieved the body. Foul play isn’t suspected, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Grant said an autopsy is scheduled for this morning.

He said the body is that of a man, probably in his late 20s or early 30s.

On May 31 Uriah Shaffer, 39, went missing and presumably drowned when his kayak overturned in the Crystal River outside Marble in Gunnison County. Shaffer’s driver’s license gave a Grand Junction address, but he apparently last lived in Carbondale. Dozens of searchers were unable to find his body.

The Crystal is a tributary of the Roaring Fork River, which reaches the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs.

“It looks like there are significant discrepancies between the two cases,” Grant said.

He said these involve things such as body markings and physical descriptions.

However, he said dental and fingerprint work still needs to be done on the body.

Garfield sheriff’s spokesman Walt Stowe said the man whose body was recovered was wearing just khaki-colored shorts, and no wetsuit or life jacket, although he added that it’s possible clothing or gear could have come off in the river.

Gunnison County Sheriff Rick Besecker said the clothing description appears to be different from what he recalls Shaffer to have been wearing.

He said it wouldn’t surprise him if Shaffer’s body could have traveled that far under high-water conditions, although he’s not familiar enough with the rivers to know if obstacles might prevent travel that far. Stowe said it’s hard to imagine the body being carried that far, but acknowledged that river levels had been pretty high.

Stowe said authorities are seeking clues such as an abandoned car that might be linked to the recovered body and help in identifying it.


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