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Young But Experienced Kayaker Dies On River

Gauley River National Recreation Area

National Park News

An experienced kayaking student participating in a training program with the World Class Kayaking Academy of Missoula, Montana, drowned on the upper Gauley River on Friday, October 5th. The 17-year-old student from Missoula was paddling with a group of 11 kayakers from the school. At a point approximately a half mile above Sweets Falls, the group took an aggressive line through a series of rapids. The student attempted to navigate through a water chute by Thumbnail Rock, but his boat became jammed in the rocks and he was caught underwater. Members of the group, private boaters, and commercial raft guides at the scene tried to rescue the entrapped boy. Two classmates were sent downriver, where they met up with a commercial outfitter at Sweets Fall who had a radio. Volunteer rescue teams and National Park Service rangers responded to the remote section of the river and set up a recovery system utilizing a series ropes and pulleys. It took the professional rescuers over two hours to free the kayak and recover the boy’s body, which was then transported by raft downriver to an ambulance and turned over to the county medical examiner. The World Class Kayak Academy is a preparatory high school for students striving to become competitive kayakers. They were on a tour of Eastern rivers, including the upper Youghiogheny River in Maryland and Green River in North Carolina. The class is scheduled to paddle the Zambia and other rivers in Africa this fall. The upper Gauley River is rated class 4-5+ and is known as one of the top ten whitewater rivers in the world. A follow-up investigation is being completed by rangers in cooperation with West Virginia Department of Natural Resources officers.


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