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Rafter Drowns In River Rapid

Gauley River National Recreation Area

National Park News

On the morning of September 11th, ranger Randy Fisher was flagged down by a kayaker at the Upper Gauley parking area and was advised that there was a rescue in progress somewhere near the Tailwaters put-in. Fisher and West Virginia conservation officers attempted to determine where the rescue was taking place along the nearly inaccessible river. During the search, rafters on scene were able to locate the victim – Benjamin Weaver, 30, of Vienna, West Virginia – and get him to the river bank.  Weaver was carried to an ambulance, where resuscitation efforts led to the restoration of his breathing. He was then taken to the Charleston Area Medical Center. An investigation revealed what had happened:  One of Weaver’s fellow rafters had fallen into the river at an entrance rapid. While those in the boat were attempting to retrieve him, it was swept into a large undercut rock, causing it to flip and spill everyone into the river. All the rafters but Weaver were flushed out from under the rock. He was caught there and held underwater for several minutes. Weaver remained unresponsive and in critical condition in the hospital until he succumbed to his injuries on September 29th. Weaver was a chemical engineer for DuPont and a part-time raft guide. The incident occurred during one of the scheduled high water releases from the Summersville Dam for the Gauley whitewater season. A joint investigation by the National Park Service and West Virginia DNR continues.


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