On June 29, 2019 at 1633 hours the Chaffee County Communications Center received numerous calls of a kayaker floating downriver from the Buena Vista River Park. Emergency personnel immediately responded to the area and began searching for a potential victim.
Information was received that another boater had observed a body in the water near the Wilderness Aware Center in Johnson Village and this boater was now trying to make contact with the body. Emergency personnel and boaters on the water finally were able to pull a male from the water at the River Runners Center. EMS personnel were on scene and the male party was pronounced dead at 1750 hours.
Chaffee County Sheriff, Arkansas Water Headwater, and Buena Vista Police began an investigation and it was learned that Michael Robert James, age 40, from Boulder, Colorado, was paddle boating at the Buena Vista River Park. He was observed to fall in the water and was eventually unable to get back on his paddle board. Boaters in the water initially tried to rescue James, however he was eventually swept downstream due to high, fast moving water. Another boater located James in Johnson Village and tried numerous times to pull him to safety but once again high swift water prevented this and this same boater accompanied James to the River Runners area where emergency crews and private citizens pulled James out of the water but at this time he was deceased.
The Chaffee County Coroner responded and took possession of Mr James.