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Accident Description July 18, 2006

Pennsylvania man drowns in the Rogue

By Paris Achen

Mail Tribune

A 60-year-old man from Pittsburgh drowned Monday while rafting in the Rogue River rapids near the Rogue Elk County Park in Trail. Harvey S. Kappeler Jr., who was vacationing in the area, was not wearing a life jacket when the accident occurred shortly after 1 p.m. near the park at 27766 Highway 62.

Members of his rafting party told Jackson County sheriff's deputies the inflatable Tahiti raft that Kappeler had rented for a day of recreation had been grounded in a shallow part of the river as the rest of the party continued to float upriver, said Sheriff Mike Winters. Before losing sight of him, his fellow rafters saw him step into a shallow part of the river to pull the Tahiti back into the water, Winters said. It is uncertain what caused him to slip into the rapids and drown. The case is still under investigation, Winters said. Another rafting party spotted Kappeler floating facedown downriver and pulled him to the east bank. He was in the water for about 30 minutes, Winters said.

Responding to a 911 call, medics from Jackson County Fire District 4 in Shady Cove, Mercy Flights and the sheriff's Marine Unit arrived at the river bank at about 1:20 p.m. and attempted to resuscitate the man without success. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The first drowning this summer in the Rogue River, this tragedy follows a spate of drownings across the state. District 4 Fire Chief Bob Miller said it's common to see rafters on the Rogue without life jackets. "In fast-moving parts of the river there is no time for 'Oh, I've got to find my life jacket and put it on,' " Miller said. "It's best to wear it all the time."