Accident Database

Report ID# 114891

  • Impact/Trauma
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

Lindsay Ashton flipped and never attempted to roll or swim out of her kayak. She had her helmet on when she put on the river but it must have been ripped off somehow when she flipped upside down and she had a pretty good contusion on her head. She floated upside down and unconscious into a logjam where another paddling partner and I were able to get to her. After about a minute of tugging and pulling her body flushed through the logjam.

 I jumped back in my kayak and raced down river to find her floating face down in the water. I held her head out of the water as best as I could but kept losing track of her in the rapids and then would find her again and keep her head up. We made it though the rapids but the river was still moving fast into town. I was able to keep her head out of the water and whistle for help on shore. There are many docks where the river gets close to the lake, and one of them had a good sized logjam stuck underneath.

 I wasn’t able to paddle while holding her head up, and so we floated into one of these logjams. I held onto her until the lest second, and was barely able to make it around the logjam without getting pinned myself. People on the dock reached down to grab her but weren’t able to keep a hold of her. Luckily she immediately flushed though the logjam and I was there to keep her head out of the water. At this point we were in the lake, and a paddle boarder came out to aid. I threw her on his board and after he did some rescue breaths he paddled her to shore where there were many people waiting to do CPR. She had a pulse but wasn’t breathing, after 6 rounds of CPR she could breathe on her own.

By Finan Lund-Andersen

May 28th, 2021

Lindsay Ashton, who had a serious kayaking accident on the Swan River (MT) on May 28, just passed away after three weeks of struggling in a coma. Rough year for the paddling community.

Scott Harding
Stewardship Associate
American Whitewater
Forks of Salmon, CA

Kayaker succumbs to injuries

Lindsay Ashton, seen in this photo from a GoFundMe page, died June 14 from injuries she sustained May 28 on the Swan River at Bigfork.


Daily Inter Lake | June 23, 2021 1:27 PM

A kayaker who sustained a head injury and nearly drowned while paddling on the Swan River May 28 has died. Lindsay Ashton, of Missoula, passed away the afternoon of Monday, June 14, her friend, Autumn Barnes-Fraser, told the Bigfork Eagle Wednesday. Ashton was life-flighted to Logan Health Medical Center following the accident and was placed in a medically induced coma for multiple days, according to posts on, a website used to share updates on an individual’s medical status.

Ashton was not competing in the Bigfork Whitewater Festival, which took place that same weekend, but was doing a few fun runs on the Swan River with friends. The section of water Ashton was paddling on is known as the Wild Mile for its sizable Class IV rapids.

“The Lindsay we love, the Lindsay who loved us, has already let go of her earthly form, but it is our job to take care of her body, to give it the rest and release it deserves,” Barnes wrote in a heartfelt post on June 14. “Live like Lindsay did: By finding joy in the smallest things, look on the bright side without minimizing your very real pain, and putting an extra slab of butter on your toast this morning.”

A GoFundMe setup for her benefit raised $57,408 from 758 donors in a matter of weeks. A funeral was held June 22 in Helena and additional services are planned in Missoula this weekend. A celebration of life will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. June 26 at the West Side Studio and Theater, 1200 Shakespeare St., Ste. 2, in Missoula, with a potluck to follow. Barnes-Fraser noted the event is open to those who knew Ashton.

A Helena native who lived in Missoula, Ashton worked as a wildland firefighter during the summer months and was very active in the outdoors — whether it was kayaking, skiing, mountain biking or paragliding, her GoFundMe page stated.

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