Accident Database

Report ID# 211

  • PFD Fell Off
  • Pinned in Boat Against Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Inadequate Equipment
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description


American River near Sacramento, CA : May 24, 1992

DESCRIPTION: On May 24, 1992 Lucas Roark rented a raft at Sunrise Bridge to take his four children down the Lower American River near Sacramento . Most of this section is fast-moving flat water. Part way down the river the raft ran up against a snag, spilling everyone into the river. Two of the children, aged 10 and 12, swam to shore with their father. Amy Roark, 5, and Jessica Roark, 2 were wearing oversized life vests that apparently slipped off. Amy was found 45 minutes later, was rushed to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Jessica was located by rescue divers the next morning.

SOURCE: San Francisco Bee


 1) The father stated that he felt that the county or state should have removed the snag. Local officials threatened to bring charges of child endangerment or involuntary manslaughter. Both sides in this fight were wrong. On the one hand, it is impossible to keep a river clear of obstacles, and paddlers must depend on their skills and knowledge of the river to be safe. This is particularly true when very young children are along. However, the father is clearly no criminal; his children wore PFD's and this precaution identifies him as a responsible man.

2) Very small children need to wear life vests equipped with crotch straps; otherwise the devices will be pulled off. Had this been done, the children probably would have been recovered unharmed.  

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!