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Visitor Dies During Boat Trip

New River Gorge National River

National Park News

A 38-year-old Ohio man died on April 17th while on an afternoon boating trip with friends near Lower Keeney’s Creek Rapids on the New River. Prior to his death and after he fell out of his boat and swam Upper Railroad Rapids, he’d been complaining to his boating companions that he didn’t feel well and that he thought he’d pulled a muscle in his chest. At Lower Keeney’s, he fell out of his canoe again and swam the rapid, coming ashore downstream. He motioned to his friends to get help and was seen grabbing at his chest. As his friends went for help, he pulled his canoe out of the river and attempted to climb a steep, boulder-strewn hillside up to some railroad tracks. Meanwhile, his friends ran downstream to the Fayette Station takeout to get to his vehicle. Another friend stayed with him but was across the river and was unable to help. Upon reaching the vehicle, they drove to Fayetteville and eventually activated 911. As darkness fell, rangers, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office deputies, and local fire and EMS responded and subsequently launched a ground search for the man that continued through the night and into the next morning. The search was suspended about 2 a.m. on Wednesday due to darkness. The man’s friends called rangers two hours later and reported that they’d found him and that he was dead. A few hours later and at daylight, rangers coordinated the recovery effort and established visual contact with the victim soon after arriving back on scene. River rescue rangers rafted and kayaked downstream from Cunard and were guided to the location. They found the man on a large rock on the hillside not far above his canoe. River rangers ferried investigating rangers across the New River, assisted with the scene processing, and then conducted the recovery, which required low-angle, semi-technical rope rigging techniques. The river level at the time was approximately 5,624 cubic feet per second (cfs), or about 2.8 feet above normal summer pool. During the recovery, train traffic on the CSX main line was temporarily suspended for rescuer safety. The man’s body has been turned over to the state medical examiner’s office. Ranger Randy Fisher is the case ranger for the park and is being assisted by field training ranger Eric Oaks and FTEP trainee Damon Derousse.



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