Drowning Deaths for 2015 at Seven Year High


Aaron Coffelt, a 44-year-old Rio Dell man who was pulled from the Eel River near his home last Thursday, was the county's 12th drowning of 2015. That's the most drowning deaths recorded in at least seven years, eclipsing the 10 reported in 2013. Meteorologist Troy Nicolini of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said in the past that the average amount of drowning deaths in the area is five or six, and posited that many people misjudge the cold  and swiftness of local rivers. Chief Coroner Ernie Stewart says that although results of a toxicology screen have yet to come back to his office, it's highly likely that alcohol was a complicating factor in Coffelt's death. In the autopsy, conducted yesterday, Stewart said he could "smell alcohol emanating from the body."

"I would be surprised if it didn’t come back at high levels," he added.

From the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office:

Death Investigation - Case 201505434
On Thursday, November 12, 2015, a Humboldt County Deputy Coroner responded to the Rio Dell river bar for a dead body located in the Eel River. The body has been positively identified as 44 year old Aaron Coffelt, of Rio Dell. The Rio Dell Police Department was notified that Coffelt was missing after he and some friends were drinking under the bridge. The Rio Dell Fire Department and Scotia Fire Department responded to the river bar and assisted with the investigation. It was determined the people drinking with Coffelt left the river bar but Coffelt didn’t. It is unclear how Coffelt’s body ended up in the river. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, November 17, 2015 to determine the cause of death.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

Mike Downey

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