Man dies after falling from kayak in Río Grande

Rescuers unable to revive man found unconscious by river

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A male individual who died Sunday afternoon (June 11) after falling from a kayak in a section of the Río Grande near Pilar has been identified as John McDonough, 71, of Santa Fe.

McDonough had been kayaking with a friend, who witnessed McDonough's kayak overturn in the water and saw him make it to shore. Believing McDonough was safe, the kayaker continued downriver to retrieve the unmanned kayak.

But shortly after 1 p.m. another group of kayakers discovered McDonough facedown in a shallow section of the river by the water's edge about 1 mile south of Pilar near the Glen Woody Bridge. McDonough was unconscious and not breathing – not far from a section of river where a rafter drowned in May.

Río Arriba County officials relayed the discovery to Taos County EMS, who initiated a rescue operation. A helicopter was dispatched to assist, prompting Taos County Sheriff's deputies to shut down State Road 68 for about 2 hours as the chopper touched down on the roadway.

The kayakers had already begun CPR by the time first responders from Dixon Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene, according to Joaquin Gonzales, director of Taos County Emergency Medical Services. The team continued the effort to revive the victim until paramedics arrived, he said.

"We continued our efforts in resuscitation for over an hour, but were unsuccessful and the patient was pronounced dead by the Office of the Medical Investigator," said Gonzales, adding that the victim's cause of death was still under investigation. "We don't know if this was a drowning or a medical episode that lead to this event."

This story will be updated as further information becomes available.

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