Accident Database

Report ID# 1075

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • Does not Apply
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

Missing kayaker believed dead Boat overturned after going over dam

Associated Press June 7, 2006 KENNEWICK ?

Two men in a kayak went over a dam on the Yakima River between Richland and Kennewick, and one was missing and presumed drowned, Benton County sheriff's deputies said. Gary Dean Kirk, 46, of Kennewick, reportedly surfaced a couple of times about 30 feet downstream from the Wanawish Dam, also known as Horn Rapids Dam, along state Route 240 before a witness lost sight of him Saturday afternoon, witnesses said.

Cody Lee Hughes, 20, of Kennewick, who had been with Kirk in the two-person kayak, was rescued after swimming toward shore through the rapid current and clinging to a snag in about four feet of water about 30 feet into the river, according to a news release issued by sheriff's Capt. Charles Kissler. As of Monday evening, no trace of Kirk had been found in a search using ground parties, personal watercraft, inflatable boats and a sheriff's airplane, deputies said.

More aerial searching is planned, Cpl. Brian White said. Kirk's 19-year-old daughter, Janelle, was being comforted by friends at home, while his 18-year-old son, Aaron, joined in the search. Signs posted along the river warn boaters to stay out of the area. The kayak contained life jackets but neither Hughes nor Kirk was wearing one, White said. "The information that I received from (Hughes) was that (Kirk) said he had gone over the dam before, so they were trying to go over the dam intentionally without wearing life jackets," he said.

Lowhead dams like the Wanawish can be deceptively dangerous because boats and other objects that go over the drop can be caught in currents that force them under water, said Scott Pattison, a spokesman for Columbia Basin Dive Rescue. Kirk and Hughes were pitched out of the kayak in the turbulence, he said.


Man missing after Plunge

Tri-City Herald.COM (6-05-06)

A young Kennewick man survived a kayak plunge over the Wanawish Dam on Sat. (6-04), but his friend may not have been as fortunate. No sign had been found of the second young man when a search was called off about dusk Sat. Witnesses reported that a kayak with 2 boaters went over the dam on the Yakima River about 4:30 p.m. Sat., said Scott Pattison of Columbia Basin Dive Rescue.

A man who was at the dam with his family reported seeing both the men surface about 30 ft. downstream from the dam. One of the men started swimming toward shore, and Rusty Bell of the dive rescue team found him sitting on a snag near a maple tree in about 4 ft. of water. He was about 30 ft. from shore, said Capt. Mike McKenna of Benton Co. Fire District 2. Bell used a search line to enter the fast-moving water and reach the young man. The witness ran downstream looking for the boaters, but lost sight of the 2nd man when trees blocked his view. The man floating in the river did not appear to be conscious, the witness reported.

The Benton Co. Sheriff's Office did not release the name of either boater Sat. night. The 2 young men put a red kayak into the water at a recreational vehicle park about a half-mile upstream from the dam. A witness reported they were paddling toward the dam as if they meant to go over it. Neither boater was wearing a life jacket. The Yakima River is marked with signs above the dam warning boaters away. The way the water goes over the dam creates an undertow. Logs that go over the dam can be caught there for weeks. The river is particularly dangerous now, swollen with water from rainfall and snow melt.

An hour into the search there was a report that a cry for help had been heard downstream from the dam, but no one was found in the area. The man who was rescued spent an hour sitting in an ambulance alongside the river, but refused to be taken to Kadlec Medical Center in Richland until his brother arrived and took him there.

By 7 p.m. the operation changed from a rescue mission to a recovery effort. Rescue workers could not find a plane to fly over the river before it began to grow dark Sat., but a plane is expected to fly the river today. It may be able to spot the missing boater in shallow areas of the river. If it finds nothing, the search is not expected to resume until Tue. to see if a body may rise. The kayak and a blue life preserver were found floating downstream of the dam. Dive rescue also picked up a yellow buoy from the kayak that bobbed for 2 hrs. just beneath the dam before breaking free and floating down river.


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