A metal cable stretched across the Dolores River scraped five people off their raft on Tuesday, sending one woman to the hospital with a head injury.
The Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident as a possible second-degree assault.
The incident occurred near County Road 34.4 just after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 2. Victims said the cable “came out of the blue” and they had no time to react after spotting it.
The 35-year-old woman reportedly hit her head on a rock when thrown overboard. She suffered a concussion and reported feeling dizzy and nauseated. A 34-year-old man reported that his arm was caught on the cable. He suffered scrapes and bruises from the armpit to the wrist.
“I had the cable in my hand, and it pinned me under water,” said rafter Josh Munson of Dolores. “I was scared.”
“The cable did not appear to be set up for any legitimate purpose and appeared to be intentionally strung across the Dolores River to stop or harm anyone navigating the river, as if set up as a trap,” wrote Montezuma County sheriff’s deputy John Hancock in a three-page report.
With a decade of river experience, Munson said the incident was his first involving a man-made obstacle. Munson had paddled the same stretch of river multiple times last weekend, adding he hadn’t seen the cable until Tuesday’s incident.
“I have no idea why anyone would stretch a cable across the river during high-water season,” Munson said.
According to Munson, up to 15 boaters made the same trip as his party on Tuesday.
“Over a dozen folks could have been harmed,” Munson said.
The Dolores Fire Department was called to the scene to remove the cable. Munson said the cable – downstream from the American Legion park and upstream from the Lightenburger Ranch where the river runs south – remained connected to a tree on the river’s left bank. He said the cable could still pose an obstacle to boaters.
The property where the cable was located is registered to a 60-year-old Arizona man.