Accident Database

Report ID# 2453

  • Vertical Pin
  • Does not Apply
  • Failed Rescue

Accident Description

My name is Marty Rood;  I was paddling with Conrad Fourney on North Fork of the Payette River on Aug. 12 the day he was pinned.   We were a group of 4 that put on at the top.  We eddied out above Nutcracker and I asked Jesse Murphy, Rob Riederman, and Conrad what lines they were going to take.  Rob expressed that he was going to walk so he proceed toward the shore to start the process.  Jesse said he was going to take the right line. Conrad said he was going to try to start right and ferry above the "Nutcracker", the crux, and continue along the left line. This is a line that few people have attempted. I was going to take the left line and head for a large boof rock below the crux on river left.

If you can make the eddy, you can see others run the crux of Nutcracker and the lower boof.  I was the first one to run, made my line, and made the eddy.  I don't always make this eddy but the view of others running is great.  Jesse ran next but didn't make the eddy thay I was in on the left side of the river.  The road is on river right.  Jesse made it to the next eddy on river left below me but out of sight of the rapid.  I saw Conrad go over the Nutcracker rock backwards.  He appeared to roll up immediately after, but his boat was moving very slowly.  I believe his skirt popped and the boat pinned.  Conrad has used a Perception Phat ever since I have known him.  That day was  his first in a Pyrahna H3 and  I believe this was one contributing factor to the pin.

From this point, the gradient and boof rock obscured my view.  I could see Conrad's head and I saw him go backwards into a seam slightly above and river right of this large boof rock.  I didn't see him for several seconds and from my postion he should have gone by at that point in time.  I saw a float bag and his paddle go by and I immediately got out of my boat for a better view. 

At this time Jesse saw the paddle, ferried out to retrieve it, and was then forced downstream to another eddy on the opposite side (river right).  He begain coming up the right shore to assit in the swim that we thought had ensued.  I climbed up on the shore and I saw Conrad facing downstream with water going over his head.  He had been pushed to the left of this vertical boof rock after he swam from his boat. He was approx 8 feet from shore on river left. I was not sure if he was in his boat.  I had not brought my rope with me. 

I yelled and Conrad pushed his arm up out of the water.  He had an air pocket.  I positioned myself slightly above Conrad and  jumped in, grabbed the shoulder strap of his PFD.  At this point he grabbed my forearms.  I was going to try to get my feet down on his boat or the bottom and let him push up and out.  I could not get my feet down on anything, and I had to let go and swim to shore.  I ended up below my boat, ran back upstream, and grabbed my rope. 

At this time Rob and Jesse could see Conrad's boat but not Conrad.  I blew my whistle and they started to my side of the river in their boats.  I yelled Conrad's name and again he responded by sticking his arm out.  I yelled "rope, rope!", threw the bag beyond him, and he grabbed the rope in both hands.  I tried to position myself upsteam of him but the rope kept sliding through his hands. I was hoping he could hold on until the end of the bag but his grip loosened and he eventually let go and his head was pushed under water. 

I clipped the rope to my rescue harness and prepared for a strong swimmer rescue but had
to wait to get Rob in position with rope and Jesse in postion in his boat. I jumped in again, this time on tether.  I grabbed his PFD again but couldn't make any headway on getting him out.  I then put another rope in my right hand, clipped it to his PFD and pendulumed to shore.  We then  positioned ourselves (Rob and I) directly upstream and began pulling very hard with no luck.  At this point it had not been very long since Conrad lost conscienceness.  (Still hope)  Jesse then aided us and Conrad came free. 

We pulled him to shore, found no vital signs, and started CPR.  Jesse had previously stopped a car on the road and told them to contact 911 / the County Sherriff before he had come back across the river.  A group of boaters passed us, and they also had a driver go contact an Ambulance/Life flight.  We carried on with CPR for over an hour.  The ambulance and Life Flight blocked the highway from traffic, but had no way to get to us across the river.  We kept doing CPR.  A boater brought us a bag to help with the CPR and Tom Long and his sons, from local river company Cascade Kayak & Raft,  showed up with a paddle raft and backboard and made it across to our  side.  We ferried Conrad back across, got him up to the Ambulance.  At this point, I saw that the Life Flight helicopter was not mobilized, and I expected the worst for Conrad.

Inspecting the rapid, months later in the Fall, you could see the splitter rock where the stern of his boat was stuck and where he was pinned.  There is a very old log wedged between the boof rock and the shore which is always covered with water and had never been noticed

 Idaho Kayaking Legend, Conrad Fourney, Dies on North Fork Payette

In an agonizing twist of fate, longtime Idaho kayaker Conrad Fourney, 48, was killed on the North Fork of the Payette Sunday after his boat became pinned in Nutcracker Rapid, part of the upper five miles of this famous 15-mile, Class V run. “We’re all devastated,” Anne Poinier, a friend, told the Idaho Statesman “He was absolutely a fantastic man.”

According to initial reports, Fourney was paddling with Ron Reiterman and McCall’s Marty Rood and Jesse Murphy. He was pinned behind the “Nut,” the rapid’s crux section. He swam and rescuers believe his foot became entrapped in the riverbed. When rescuers finally did reach him, he was pulled out on river left, away from the road. CPR attempts were unsuccessful.

This winter, Fourney rescued a woman who was pinned on the Main Payette. She had been stuck against a rock near Bennetts Rapid for nearly an hour before he manned an inflatable kayak, caught an eddy behind where she was stuck and freed her. Video of the harrowing rescue made it to national news outlets like NBC and CBS and a Q and A with Fourney ran in Paddler magazine. He also appeared on the CBS “Morning Show,” to speak about the accident.

Fourney – originally from North Carolina – leaves behind his nine-year-old son, Noah, who lives in Boise. He’s a former owner of Headwaters River Company. Two of his ex-employees, Russell Kelly and Damon Miller, kayaking legends in their own right, died within the last three years in non-river accidents. Fourney has guided in New Zealand, Africa, Central America and is part of a small club of kayakers who have run the Grand Canyon of the Stikine in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Please stay tuned as Paddling Life updates this story.


Kayaker, a hero in 2006 rescue, dies in Payette accident

By Sandra Forester - Idaho Statesman Edition Date: 08/12/07

Conrad Fourney was hailed as a hero last November for rescuing a Boise kayaker caught in Payette River rapids. Today, Fourney caught himself in rocks at a North Fork rapid. No one could save him. “We’re all devastated,” Anne Poinier, a friend, told the Idaho Statesman tonight. “He was absolutely a fantastic man.” Fourney, an expert kayaker from Boise, was kayaking on the North Fork of the Payette River with three friends when he took a spill and his foot caught in the rocks at Nutcracker Rapid, a Class V rapid — an extremely difficult, violent rapid. He died at 12:59 p.m., a Valley County dispatcher said.

Fourney, 48, was trained as a civil engineer, but worked as a bookkeeper and installed hardwood floors. He was one of Idaho’s top kayakers with 25 years of experience on the world’s toughest rivers. Boating was his life. He owned a Banks raft company in the 1990s and guided in his native West Virginia as well as in New Zealand, Costa Rica and Africa. When he lived in Banks, tow-truck drivers paid him to attach lines to submerged vehicles. Only a handful of boaters, including Fourney, would run the deadly, unending 15-mile stretch of whitewater on the North Fork Payette between Smith’s Ferry and Banks.

Fourney is the second boating veteran to give up his life in the Payette’s rapids since July. River guide Dean Fairburn, 45, led dozens of trips on the South Fork of the Payette River over the past eight years. He drowned July 1 in a Class IV rapid called Staircase despite a dramatic rescue attempt by a passing motorist, two kayakers and several others. Like Fourney, Fairburn’s foot was pinned against a rock as churning water surged over his head. Sarah Cox, the woman Fourney saved last year when her kayak lodged nose-down in Go Left rapid, said she saw her rescuer just last week with his son, Noah, on the Salmon River. “It’s always like a gift to see him,” Cox said. “He was a marvelous man, a kind man, a very good dad. He was a very good partner to Cynthia. I can’t believe it. He’s gone.” Fourney leaves behind his partner, Cynthia Fairfax, and his son, Noah, now 9, both of whom were with him when he rescued Cox. Friends who spoke with the Statesman about Fourney last year described him as modest, humble, understated, and someone who kept a calm mind in a serious situation. Cox and Fourney appeared with CBS “Early Show” host Julie Chen after the dramatic rescue. “He always brought the big grin with him,” Cox said. “I’ll always remember his face as infused with light. He was a good person.”

Sandra Forester: 377-6464

I had paddled with Conrad a lot. He was a very nice person and it's really sad. He was also a very solid boater who had probably run the NF more times than anyone else.

I talked to one of the guys who was with him. The accident happened at the bottom of Nutcracker. No one saw exactly what happened, but they know his boat pinned under water just below the rapid--they think his sprayskirt must have popped and the boat filled with water. He swam then but got pinned underwater himself just downstream, either between two rocks or against an underwater log. Someone was able to attach a rope to him and they eventually pulled him out but it was too late.

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