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In deadliest year on Colorado’s waters, Lake Pueblo leads with most deaths in entire state

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced Tuesday that 2022 is officially the deadliest year on Colorado waters. To date, there have been 36 water-related fatalities. Of those deaths, data obtained by 13 Investigates shows Lake Pueblo State Park had the most water-related fatalities than any other body of water in Colorado.

Between May and July, six people lost their lives at Lake Pueblo. All but one of the deaths were related to drowning.

  • On 5/29/2022 two people died
  • On 6/6/2022 one person died
  • On 6/7/2022 one person died
  • On 7/7/2022 one person died
  • On 7/9/2022 one person died, this was not a drowning fatality

Following the release of the data, 13 Investigates asked CPW what makes that body of water so dangerous.

"Lake Pueblo is the busiest state park in Colorado and the more people that are out there, the more chances there are for accidents," Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Joey Livingston explained. "Most of these fatalities were preventable if people had worn a life jacket."

Lake Pueblo is a large body of water, CPW is responsible for patrolling 13,000 miles of water every day. Because of its size, CPW said rescues aren't the easiest on Lake Pueblo.

"If you fall in the water, it can hard for crews to find you and hard for other boats to see you," Livingston said.

Of the 36 water-related fatalities, 34 were water recreation related to drowning. Only two other deaths, from a flash flood in Larimer County, weren't water recreation related.

Lake Pueblo had the only non-drowning fatality in the state. In July, a 32-year-old woman died in a boat accident. According to CPW, the woman was flung from a jet ski and "made contact" with a nearby boat propeller.

The previous record for drownings in Colorado was 34, set in 2020.

Below is the data provided to 13 Investigates of the state-wide water fatalities:

"2022 has been a record year for the number of drownings and fatalities on Colorado's waters," Livingston said. "The biggest thing is people are not taking water safety seriously."

CPW told 13 Investigates the majority of the water fatalities could have been prevented by people wearing a life jacket.

"People don't understand that we have some very steep drop-offs at some of these lakes and the water depth can jump ten feet and you may not even know that you are underwater," Livingston said.

During popular holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day, CPW says alcohol can be a major factor in these deaths.

"A lot of these situations happen very fast as well and before your family or friends even recognize that you are in trouble, it can be too late," Livingston said.

CPW said they cannot emphasize enough how important wearing a life jacket is on any body of water. Even while doing activities like stand-up paddle boarding.

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.

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