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Accident Description


On June 5, 2006, 3 local men put on the Ausable River above Keeseville in Essex County, NY in solo inflatable rafts. The river was running medium high to high after several days of heavy rain. This section is not normally considered a whitewater run as it is mostly flatwater and class 1. There are several larger drops just above and in Keeseville that are in the class 4 range. This section is not listed in the AW rivers database.

2 men were rowing the rafts and the third was using a double bladed paddle made of single bladed oars taped together. None were wearing PFDs. It is not known if alcohol was involved. At around 6 PM, approximately 2 miles below where they had put in, they came to a class 2 section. 2 of the rafts flipped and the rafters swam into a class 3 ledge drop that had a wave/hole at the bottom. The third raft and rafter made it to shore before the ledge drop. 1 swimmer grabbed a raft at the bottom of the drop and flushed out. The other swimmer, 28 year old Mark Dragoon of Peru, NY did not resurface. He is presumably drowned and his body had not been located as of 6/15/06.

 by George Bassler on 2006-06-15  A group of friends attempted to run the rain swollen Ausable river with tragic results on Monday 6/5/06. As the group proceeded down stream they started to encountor progressivly more difficult whitewater. Just before the falls in keeseville two of the rafters got out of the river but Mark was unable to make it to shore and was swept over the falls.

An extensive search was conducted for several days by Swift-water rescue teams from Willsboro, Keeseville and Saranac fire Depts; NYS Forest rangers; state police divers; and firefighters from all over Clinton and Essex counties. The active search was scaled down on 6/10 but family members & friends continued to the search posting watches at bridges throughout the week. The Keesevile Fire Dept assisted the family in coordinating thier search efforts.

On 6/15/06 Mark's body was finally recovered about one mile downstream. According to a posting on the Northeast Paddlers Message Board the rapid where the accident occurred is a Class IV slide.

Raft accident on Ausable River

Posted by: "Fred Ray" slimray@gmail.com slimray

http://www.pressrepublican.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060607/NEWS/606070324/1001&ts=ts2

Keeseville rafter still missing after capsizing

By: CASEY RYAN VOCK Staff Writer June 07, 2006

KEESEVILLE - Rescue crews from around the North Country continued to search Tuesday for the Keeseville man whose raft capsized Monday on the Ausable River. But, according to Forest Ranger Lt. Gary Friedrich, dangerously swift water Monday and Tuesday prevented the State Police dive team from entering the river to attempt to locate Mark T. Dragoon, 28, of 596A Route 9N. Dragoon was rafting Monday evening with two friends, Darius L. Drew and Joseph T. Zwart, both of Keeseville, according to State Police.

The three men, who police said were not wearing personal flotation devices, were each navigating one-person rafts. They approached strong rapids at about 6:06 p.m., and Dragoon's raft overturned. Shortly thereafter, Zwart's raft also overturned. However, State Police said, Zwart was able to swim to shore. "It was too dangerous today (Tuesday) to put divers in the water," Friedrich said. "And it was even more dangerous last (Monday) night." Friedrich said Tuesday night that rescue teams had found no sign of Dragoon, despite the use of underwater cameras attached to telescoping poles. However, he pointed out that the water level had dropped by more than two feet since early Monday, which he said would hopefully "allow us to put divers in the water" Wednesday morning.

Rescue teams Tuesday were concentrated around Alice Falls, which is downstream from where Dragoon reportedly went in the water near Arch Bridge. "We will re-search some areas we searched today and we will continue to search further down stream tomorrow. State Police divers have dove there before and are familiar with the river's characteristic. We are letting them provide us the information we need to make decisions about where we search," Friedrich said. The rescue operation was still being considered a search Tuesday night. "It's a search until we locate the subject. ... We will determine the necessary course of action when we locate him," Friedrich said. "We appreciate the public's patience with the diversion of traffic around the accident scene, and we wish they would continue that support until we conclude the operation."

State Police, the State Police Aviation Unit, Forest Rangers and firefighters from Keeseville and Saranac searched the river Monday night until the operation was suspended because of darkness. It resumed at about 7 a.m. Tuesday and lasted until about 8 p.m. Further assistance Tuesday was provided by the Department of Homeland Security Aviation Unit, the State Police Dive Detail and several area fire departments.

According to Dragoon's grandfather Bill Donnell, Dragoon would have turned 29 years old Tuesday. "He was a great kid," Donnell said. "It is a shame this happened on his birthday." Dragoon had plans to start working at Perkins, a restaurant that will soon open in Plattsburgh. Donnell is close friends with Frank Pabst, the former skipper of Juniper Boat Tours in Plattsburgh and a longtime diver and maritime salvager, who believes rescue units may have a difficult time locating Dragoon. "I feel so bad for the family," Pabst said. "They (rescue crews) could have a hard time. The turbulence is so bad it might have rolled him into one of the caves." He explained that the bottom of the Ausable River, in the vicinity of where Dragoon capsized, is very cavernous. "As long as a diver stays as close to the bottom as possible, they can navigate with a safety line. If you get close to the bottom, the current will sweep over you rather than take you down the river. It's dangerous for a diver to be down there."

KEESEVILLE, N.Y. (AP) Rescuers called off their search late Tuesday for a North Country man whose raft flipped over in an Adirondack River. Mark Dragoon, 28, went rafting with two friends in one-man rubber rafts on the Ausable River in Keeseville Monday, according to police. They floated downstream into rougher water they were unable to handle, and two of the rafts overturned. His companions, Darius Drew and Joseph Zwart, were able to reach shore, but Dragoon was not.

Rescuers received the call around 6 p.m. Monday and they lined the Arch Bridge on Main Street and the river bank to look for the missing man. A helicopter crew searched from above and traffic was closed off at either end of the bridge in Keeseville. Firefighters, police officers and forest rangers were at the scene, and the search efforts went on most of the day Tuesday. The search was called off by 9:30 p.m.

Officials declined to comment on whether the search would be resumed in the morning. Firefighters, police officers and forest rangers were at the scene Tuesday to search for the man. Keeseville is 128 miles north of Albany.

Missing rafter's body found Drowned in Ausable River June 5

By: KIM SMITH DEDAM Staff Writer - Plattsburg, NY PRESS-REPUBLICAN

June 16, 2006 KEESEVILLE ? At about 2:30 p.m. Thursday, the body of 28-year-old Mark T. Dragoon was found in the Ausable River, ending an 11-day search that was hampered at times by heavy rains and high water. His body was located behind Harold's Bar on Old State Road at Ausable Chasm, about two miles from where he was last seen June 5 just above the Arch Bridge near the Keeseville Grange, according to Keeseville Fire Department First Assistant Chief Dave Winter.

One of the volunteers from Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks, searching in a kayak, spotted the body in the river between Alice Falls and Ausable Chasm. Clinton County Coroner David Donah positively identified Mark at 3:15 p.m., according to his aunt Helen Dragoon, who characterized the family as feeling "sad and yet relieved." "We can't reiterate enough how appreciative we are of the search and recovery efforts of all the people who helped bring Mark home," she said. Police said the body was taken to CVPH Medical Center, where an autopsy will be performed. The investigation has ruled the drowning accidental.

SUPPORT FOR FAMILY Earlier in the day, every bridge from Keeseville to Lake Champlain had spotters, some wearing neon yellow shirts that read "Mark's Magic Band of Gypsies," watching the river in what had become a well-organized search. Mark's mother, Marie Miller, watched from the first bridge below the Arch Bridge on Route 9, as she had for many days. "I am not leaving this bridge until we find Mark," she said Thursday morning. Days of watching had been difficult, but she said her morale was bolstered by the constant support of friends, neighbors and family.I get home and my answering machine is full," Miller said, with tears brimming. Her son performed magic shows for children and had been filmed earlier on the day he capsized. Miller had not yet had the strength to watch that. "Mark's Magic" was the name of his first business endeavor and was on his first business card.

UNDERWATER DROPS Fast-flowing water and underwater nooks and crannies make the Ausable River particularly dangerous in that area. Keeseville Fire Chief Lenny Martin said the water level drops to more than 30 feet in a long crevasse below the bridge. The river continues into the chasm, where depths reach 60 feet and waterfalls pour over hundreds of feet of rock. The area just before the bridge proves very dangerous, Miller said. It is a sheer drop off just behind the long stone shed behind the Grange Hall. "You can just look down into it." The rapids and bridge currents at the Arch Bridge are not marked by safety lines for paddlers as they are on some sections of Adirondack rivers.

Mark had gone paddling June 5 with two friends in rubber one-man rafts. The river was extremely high and rapids were swift that day. According to officials, one of the young men was able to exit the river as the trio had planned  in shallows above the rapids 200 yards before the Arch Bridge. The other was able to hang on to his raft after it capsized. But Mark was pulled into the rapids.

THOROUGH SEARCH Over the past week and a half, six main agencies assisted in the ongoing search: the Homeland Security Aviation Unit, the New York State Police Aviation Unit, New York State Forest Rangers, the Keeseville Fire Department, Saranac Fire Department Cold Water Rescue Team and Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks. On Thursday, eight members of the Champlain Valley Amateur Radio Club, including two in kayaks near the mouth of the river at Lake Champlain, had also taken watch positions.

Mark's father, Tom Dragoon, said the number of trained personnel in the North County is astounding, and he counted himself very fortunate to have had such resources in the effort to find his son. A colleague and former emergency-services coordinator for the American Red Cross, Florin Georgescu had designed the search procedure, Dragoon said. Donations of food, equipment, cash and other items came in every day. All funds collected throughout the incident will be used to bolster the Keeseville Fire Department's Swift Water Rescue equipment and personnel. Tom Dragoon said it would become "one very well-outfitted organization." "Out of every bad thing, good things come. We want to build a strong swift water rescue corps at Keeseville."