Recovery efforts hampered for body spotted under Río Grande Gorge Bridge

Mission abandoned due to weather conditions, obstacle in the river

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 1/10/20

Updated Jan. 10 at 4:50 p.m. A recovery crew that hiked under the Río Grande Gorge Bridge to retrieve a body in a snowstorm Friday (Jan. 10) was forced to call off the mission due to an obstacle in the river.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said the body has not been identified, but may be that of an Alamosa, Colorado, man who was reported missing this month.

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Recovery efforts hampered for body spotted under Río Grande Gorge Bridge

Mission abandoned due to weather conditions, obstacle in the river

Posted

Updated Jan. 10 at 4:50 p.m. A recovery crew that hiked under the Río Grande Gorge Bridge to retrieve a body in a snowstorm Friday (Jan. 10) was forced to call off the mission due to an obstacle in the river.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said the body has not been identified, but may be that of an Alamosa, Colorado, man who was reported missing this month.

Hogrefe said the team encountered ice in the river that blocked them from reaching the unidentified remains.

"The decision was made to terminate the mission and come out," he said, adding that the recovery team will reassess their approach and determine a safer method of reaching the remains and pulling them out of the steep canyon.

U.S. Highway 64 West, which crosses the 600-foot-high bridge, was to be closed sometime late in the morning and early in the afternoon Friday during the recovery. Medical and fire teams from Taos County and the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator are also assisting with the mission, which poses dangers to the crew given the canyon's rugged terrain.

Several recovery missions were completed last year for people who had jumped to their deaths from the bridge, which continues to retain its reputation as a regional suicide destination. While the bridge has crisis phone lines stationed along its railings, it currently has no other form of suicide deterrent, such as safety netting or raised railings.

Chatter over Taos Central Dispatch indicated that the recovery team encountered difficulties late morning Friday. During the recovery attempt, one member of the team requested "sub-zero sleeping bags and water" as a "contingency" given the cold temperatures and snowfall that continued until noon.

Hogrefe said the body was first spotted below the bridge on Wednesday (Jan. 8), but an earlier plan to recover it had to be abandoned once the crew learned that an 80-foot section of the steep trail typically used to reach bodies had washed out.

"The Taos County Sheriff's Office is working with detectives from the Alamosa Police Department on this case and hope to be able to make a positive identity and family notification soon after the recovery is completed," Hogrefe said in a press release.

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