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Freak accident claims two San Luis Valley farming advocates

by Lora Abcarian | March 28, 2010
A freak accident recently claimed the lives of two farming and water rights advocates in Colorado. Fifty-six-year-old Ray Wright, board president of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, and 53-year-old Doug Shriver, chairman of the Rio Grande Water Users Association, suffocated after snow slid off the roof of a cabin owned by Mr. Wright and buried them.

Both men were well-respected farmers in Colorado's San Luis Valley and were known for their efforts to oppose a move in the 1990s to divert water from a valley ranch to service growing suburbs in the Denver area. They continued to advocate for farmers in the San Luis Valley until the time of their deaths. As a water expert, Mr. Wright was interviewed regularly by The Produce News for its coverage of Colorado's San Luis Valley potatoes.

The accident occurred March 19 while Messrs. Wright and Shriver were cleaning snow off the roof of a cabin located 15 miles north of Creede, CO. When they did not return home on the day of the accident as expected, their wives notified a friend. Because of unusually heavy snowfall in the area this winter, a search-and-rescue team was dispatched to the cabin.

Officials from the search-and-rescue team said that the snow load on one side of the roof slid down so quickly that the men were buried instantly. According to Mineral County Coroner Charles Downing, more than two feet of snow had accumulated on the roof.

Members of the Colorado General Assembly broke from their legislative schedule March 22 to honor the men.