Widow sues Colorado rafting outfitter, Blazing Adventures, for 2014 drowning of partner

Posted at 10:16 PM, Jun 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-23 01:11:51-04
For Jennifer Lenze, much of her life is remembered in pictures, taken before everything changed.
"My life has changed in every way possible," said the mother of six.
On June 16, 2014, her common law husband, James Sizemore, fell overboard and drowned while on a commercial rafting trip on the Roaring Fork River near Aspen. Now, she's suing -- claiming the outfitter, Blazing Adventures, didn't properly warn them of the dangers.
"These companies are so incredibly protected, but I don't think the average tourist is protected at all," Lenze said.
The lawsuit filed in Pitkin County District Court accuses Blazing Adventure of failing to disclose there were approximately a dozen deaths at the river prior to the trip. It also accuses the outfitter of lacking a proper rescue plan, failing to have proper rescue equipment and instructions.
Lenze is not alone. A Golden family is suing The Adventure Company, a different rafting outfitter, after their 11-year-old boy died on the Arkansas River last year. Both families are now calling for more oversight.
"Even if it's just to bring awareness about the real risks that exist with rafting," Lenze said.
Last year, seven people died on regulated river trips in Colorado, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPAW) officials. Even so, CPAW, the industry watchdog, said it inspects outfitters at least once every three years and Colorado guides meet some of the toughest regulations in the country.
"The minimum for Colorado [guides] is 50 hours on river. A lot of companies will at least meet that, many will exceed that number," said Kris Wahlers, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Boating Program Manager.
Wahlers said they completed 23 River Safety Inspections with Blazing Adventures between 2010 and June of this year and the outfitter did not receive any citations or violations.
How do you protect yourself and your family?
So what can you do to ensure your safety while enjoying Colorado's great rivers? Wahlers recommended making sure the company is licensed, check their reviews online and most importantly: ask questions.
"Talk to them, what kind of trips do they offer? What kind of training do they do, what kind of equipment do they use?" Wahlers said.
"I lost the person that protected all of us, and whatever I can do to prevent that from happening to somebody else, I'm willing to do," Lenze said.
Denver7 reached out to Blazing Adventures but had not heard back by the time this story was published.


Sign up for Denver7 email alerts to stay informed about breaking news and daily headlines.

Or, keep up-to-date by following Denver7 on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.