A 13-year-old Stephenville girl is dead, the victim of drowning in a river in the northwestern corner of Colorado.

Karen Valdez, who recently completed the sixth grade at Gilbert Intermediate School, was found Monday morning in the Yampa River - not wearing a life jacket - after last being seen swimming about 6 p.m. Sunday.

“Karen’s death is a terrible tragedy,” said Dr. Darrell Floyd, superintendent of Stephenville schools. “Our thoughts and prayers are with this family while they try to deal with such an unexpectedly tragic event.”

“We at Gilbert Intermediate express our deepest sympathy to the family of Anna Karen Valdez,” Gilbert Intermediate Principal Tommy Washington said. “Karen was highly thought of by the staff and very well liked by her peers. We share in her family's grief during this very difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

The accident occurred in the Yampa River near Craig, Colo., a town of about 10,000 about 40 miles from Steamboat Springs and in the vicinity of the Colorado and Wyoming border.

Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz told the Craig (Colo.) Daily Press that searchers found the teen’s body about 50 feet down river from where she was last seen, under eight feet of water at about 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Jantz said Valdez was visiting with cousins, as well as her aunt and uncle, when the incident occurred.

“Our victim slipped and kind of slid in a hole,” Jantz told the Daily Press. “She grabbed a cousin. The cousin stood up, and they saw the victim go under the water. That was the last they saw her, which was about 10 minutes prior to the time they called us.

“There was a person in the water. I don’t know if it was a cousin or friend that was right there who attempted to find her right away. … This is a severe tragedy.”

Jantz said search and rescue workers told him there was an undercurrent where Valdez was found, which “makes the surface water not look as fast, but you have a pretty good undercurrent that’s there.

“We don’t know the cause. … Whether (the undercurrent) was a factor, we do not know.”

The Moffat County Sheriff’s Office is ruling the death an accident.

According to the Daily Press, Valdez’s name wasn’t released until 3 p.m. Monday, to allow the family to be notified.

DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at doug.myers@empiretribune.com or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.