Alison Parker has filed a lawsuit following the death of her husband, James Abromitis, who was killed while on a commercial rafting trip on the Roaring Fork River in Colorado. The claim against Aspen Whitewater Rafting (AWR) includes allegations of wrongful death, fraud, gross negligence and a violation of the Consumer Protection Act. She claims that the company demonstrated reckless conduct in choosing to proceed with a rafting trip despite very dangerous conditions. Abromitis was ejected from the raft and ultimately was swept down the river to his death. The plaintiff is seeking damages of over $75,000 in this action within the U.S. District Court in Denver.
Alleged Misrepresentation of Dangerous Conditions
The trip traveled through a stretch of the Roaring Fork River known as the “Slaughterhouse.” AWR’s literature described the area as being appropriate for a “gung-ho beginner,” and went as far as to say that rafters did not need experience. A leading Colorado guidebook’s opinion ran contrary to AWR’s opinion by classifying the segment of the river as geared for experts.
Advertising from a local competitor of AWR’s described it using terms including “advanced” and “extreme.” This section of river is formally deemed as being Class IV, meaning the water is turbulent, and places swimmers at “moderate to high” risk for injury. The Safety Code of American Whitewater considers the Slaughterhouse to be particularly dangerous when water flows are higher.
Jeremy Wallace was aboard the same raft as Abromitis and his wife was videotaping the excursion. During the trip, the raft and the six people aboard become lodged in a hole and Abromitis fell off into the rushing water. The raft was able to become dislodged and soon approached Abromitis, who appeared to be drowning. Others unsuccessfully attempted to pull him back aboard as he became submerged beneath the raft. Moments later, the video showed Abromitis to be in a state of shock and distress, showing clear symptoms of hypothermia that preceded his death.
Actions of the Rafting Trip Guide
Allegations suggest the raft’s guide did little to rescue Abromitis. During the struggle, the raft encountered a fallen tree within the river that caused the raft to flip over. The guide was said to have grabbed the tree and pulled himself onto it as the raft continued quickly down the river. The guide, whose name was not revealed in either the Denver Post or Aspen Times articles, was touted as having over “15 years of experience in whitewater rafting and kayaking.”
Recreational Activity Waiver
While upon a shuttle that was transporting the group to the river, Abromitis had signed a waiver that released AWR from potential liability in the recreational activity that they were participating in.
The terms of the agreement reportedly made no mention about the height of the river’s water nor did it specifically mention the “Slaughterhouse” segment of the river. That day the river was gauged as flowing at 2,000 feet per second, a level that is so dangerous it would have prompted competitors of AWR to postpone the trip. The claim asserts that AWR was negligent and their actions led to the “tragic, prolonged, and avoidable wrongful death.”