Boaters rescued after storm capsizes boat during storm at Navajo Lake

Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Ten people were rescued when a boat capsized due to waves in a storm at Navajo Lake while being towed on July 27. The boat was recovered and is reported as being salvageable.

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer

A group of people from Durango were rescued on the evening of July 27 after a boat capsized from a wave on Navajo Lake.

Around 5:30 p.m. on July 27, Navajo State Park (NSP) received a call from a man who reported that the battery in his boat had died and he requested a tow, according to an email from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Southwest Region Public Information Officer Joe Lewandowski.

An NSP ranger arrived on scene to a location that was a couple of miles south of the New Mexico state line with the stalled boat being 20 yards off shore in a cove, Lewandowski’s email describes.

There were 16 people in total in the party with some on the boat and some on shore when NSP rangers arrived.

“Rangers hooked up the boat for a tow. He was able to take 6 people on the patrol boat, 10 were placed in the stalled boat. It was a 24-foot jet boat. All 16 people couldn’t be put on the patrol boat during the tow,” Lewandowski wrote.

But after the tow had started, Lewandowski wrote that a “vicious wind storm” hit Navajo Lake and caused waves of 6 feet or higher.

“The water swamped the jet boat and it capsized. A ranger immediately detached the line, and the patrol boat went around to pick up everyone out of the water. No one was hurt,” he wrote. “The ranger drove into a protected cove and waited out the storm. All were then taken back to the marina that’s where the boat had been launched.”

As of July 28, Lewandowski noted that the boat was found and towed back to the marina and CPW equipment was used to turn the boat right side up with Lewandowski describing the boat as “salvageable.”

NSP Manager Brian Sandy explained in an interview on Wednesday that this was the first time an incident like this has occurred since he has been manager.

“When they were towing them, the storm came in and the waves came in, they said about 6- to 8-foot waves, and a wave came over the bow of the boat that they were towing and swamped it. With all that water in the boat and the waves, it caused the boat to capsize,” Sandy said.

This story was posted on August 9, 2020.