An autopsy has determined Melvin Arterburn, 75, of Delta, died of accidental drowning. His body was recovered from the Gunnison River Sunday after he failed to return from a fishing trip.
Arterburn left Delta at 6 a.m. Friday, Oct. 6, destined for his favorite fishing spot south of the Gunnison River, opposite the Gunnison River Pleasure Park. At about 4 p.m., his girlfriend notified dispatch that he was overdue.
Delta County Search & Rescue, sheriff's deputies and Hotchkiss firefighters searched the area near the confluence of the North Fork and the Gunnison rivers until about midnight. A CareFlight helicopter assisted with the search.
The search resumed Saturday morning using the same personnel, as well as a drone provided by the Hotchkiss Fire Department. Late that afternoon, after the area had been thoroughly covered again, the search was temporarily suspended.
That evening, Hotchkiss Fire Chief Doug Fritz was at home reviewing video from the drone when he spotted something in the water that warranted additional investigation.
On Sunday morning, sheriff's deputies, Hotchkiss firefighters, Delta County Search & Rescue were joined by a boat and crew from the Gunnison River Pleasure Park. In the area identified on the drone footage, they were able to locate Arterburn and recover his body.
Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee expressed his appreciation to everyone who assisted with the search effort on the Gunnison River, as well as the two other drownings that have occurred in Delta County this year -- one in the potholes and the other on Eggleston Lake on Grand Mesa.