Utah fire captain dies in Colorado rafting accident at Dinosaur National Monument

Michael Harp, a captain in the Salt Lake City Fire Department, died in a rafting accident at Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado, officials said.

A Utah man who died in a rafting accident at Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado has been identified as a 27-year veteran of the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

Michael Harp, 54, was part of a group taking a private permitted rafting trip down the Green River in the Canyon of Lodore around 4 p.m. Thursday when their boat became stuck on a rock in the rapid known as Hells Half Mile, the U.S. National Park Service said.

Monument staff responded to the rafting accident and learned that Harp was missing and believed to be pinned under the raft. The rafting group dislodged the boat from the rock, but officials said Harp was unresponsive and “drifted downriver.”

Harp had been wearing a life jacket but lost it by the time the group unpinned the boat, according to the NPS.


River Patrol Rangers launched a search for Harp. Around 7:45 a.m. Friday, Harp’s body was found about 10 river miles downstream by guides from commercial rafting company Adrift.

His body was airlifted to the Moffat County coroner. No further details about Harp’s death were immediately available.

Harp, from Sandy, Utah, was a second-generation firefighter who served as a fire captain in the Salt Lake City Fire Department, the department wrote in a social media post on Saturday.


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He was a 27-year veteran of the department, following in the footsteps of his father, and had notably deployed to Ground Zero after 9/11, according to the department.

“Captain Michael Harp dedicated his life to the service of not only the citizens of Salt Lake City, but also his fellow firefighters,” the department wrote. “His legacy of service, leadership, compassion, and contagious laughter will forever be remembered by all who knew him.”

Dinosaur National Monument is spread over 210,000 acres across Colorado and Utah. While best known for a quarry that holds preserved dinosaur fossils, whitewater rafters from around the world are attracted to the monument’s Green and Yampa rivers that cut though its famed canyons.

During the days surrounding the accident, the NPS said that flow rates for the Canyon of Lodore section of the Green River averaged 4,700 cubic feet per second.

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