Log in Fall Special

Kansas doctor dies saving his daughter from drowning on Colorado raft trip


HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas doctor saved his daughter when she became trapped by their overturned raft in a rushing Colorado river, but was unable to save himself.

Dustin Harker, 47, a neurologist from Hutchinson, was on a whitewater rafting trip Friday with friends from church and four of his 13 children when the accident happened in the Sunshine Falls area on the Arkansas River.

The family had rafted the same river in previous years but the rapids were more turbulent than usual due to high amounts of rainfall, Harker's sister-in-law, Sharon Neu Young, said in an email to the Hutchinson News.

A raft carrying Harker and three of his children capsized.

“Everyone struggled to get above water,” Young wrote. “In the tumult, Dustin threw the capsized raft off his youngest daughter who was trapped underneath.” She did not disclose the girl's age.

Everyone made it to shore and Harker was even able to speak, but he “had already taken on too much water” and soon became unresponsive, Young wrote. He died despite CPR efforts.

Cheryl Gonsalves, marketing manager for Hutchinson Clinic, said Harker cared deeply about his patients.

“He was absolutely revered here,” she said.