Steamboat man dies in the Yampa River |

Steamboat man dies in the Yampa River

The man who fell into Soda Creek today was identified as John Christopher Noonan

Jack Weinstein
Steamboat Springs police, Routt County Sheriff's Office deputies, Routt County Search and Rescue members and Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue members pull a man from the waters of the Yampa River on Wednesday afternoon. Witnesses said the man fell into Soda Creek near Lincoln Avenue and 12th Street at about 4 p.m., launching a multi-agency search and rescue effort. He was found 50 minutes later near Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park.
John F. Russell

— The man who died Wednesday after falling into Soda Creek near 12th Street and Lincoln Avenue was identified as Steamboat Springs resident John Christopher Noonan, Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg said.

Noonan, 58, a longtime Steamboat resident, owned Storm King Surveying and Mapping. His ex-wife lives in Steamboat. The couple didn’t have any children, and Noonan didn’t have any other family in town, Ryg said.

Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae said witnesses told police that Noonan fell while trying to get on his mountain bike just after 4 p.m. He was pulled from the Yampa River at Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park just west of Steamboat at about 4:50 p.m. and taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center. Noonan was pronounced dead at 5:10 p.m.

Sgt. Rich Brown said witnesses told police Noonan fell into the creek, went under Lincoln Avenue and entered the Yampa River near Bud Werner Memorial Library. Brown said witnesses saw Noonan floating down the river.

Routt County Undersheriff Ray Birch said he was stationed at Steamboat Campground with Deputy Kurtis Luster when they saw Noonan.

“The current was moving pretty swiftly,” Birch said.

Birch said Noonan stopped going down the river in an area with a lot of logs and brush about 150 to 200 yards west of the bridge at the campground. He said they used ropes, which were held by Sleepy Bear residents, to wade into the water about 50 feet.

At that time, he said, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue emergency responders and Routt County Search and Rescue personnel were helping to remove Noonan from the river. Birch said a local kayaking instructor who happened to be on the river also helped.

Emergency responders took Noonan to YVMC, where he was pronounced dead. Rae said Noonan was identified through his bike registration and was recognized by officers on scene. He said they knew who he was from previous contact.

Rae said Noonan appeared to have drowned.

Ryg said an autopsy would be conducted today, which would include a toxicology report.

“It looks pretty clear as a drowning,” Ryg said. “… He was in the water for about 35 minutes.”

This is the second water-related incident this month. Police have said they think 15-month-old Edwin Rodriguez wandered away from his home the morning of June 4 before falling into Butcherknife Creek in downtown Steamboat. His grandfather pulled him out, and the child was airlifted to Denver. Edwin remained in fair condition Wednesday at The Children’s Hospital, spokeswoman Elizabeth Whitehead said.

Local rivers and streams have receded this week from at or near flood stage, but they still are running high.

The Yampa River at Soda Creek was flowing at 4,530 cubic feet per second at 6 p.m. Wednesday, about twice as fast as the average for the date. It was listed as being at a depth of 7.7 feet.

Routt County Office of Emergency Management Director Bob Struble has said peak runoff could last into July, at least two weeks longer than normal. He has urged anyone who is not an experienced kayaker to avoid the rivers until peak runoff has ended.

The Sheriff’s Office issued a partial-use restriction Tuesday banning single-chambered inflated devices, such as inner tubes and air mattresses, from all creeks and rivers in the county until July 1. The Sheriff’s Office didn’t ban use of whitewater canoes or kayaks.

According to a news release, the Sheriff’s Office banned the devices because high water levels “pose a definite threat of increased incidents of water recreation accidents or injuries within our jurisdiction.”

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User