Accident Database

Report ID# 2606

  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

Unfortunately, I have another accident to report. I was up on the Wardsboro last night, doing a creeking session and the rescue crews were searching the West right where the Wardsboro runs into it - it was pretty sobering when we took out, to have all these guys giving up the search for the night and the friends and family of the missing guys going out of their minds with fear, and a small plane flying back and forth overhead trying to locate him. To make matters worse, there had been a suicide / double homicide on the Wardsboro just last weekend, when a mother threw her 2 ½ & 6 year old daughters and then herself into the Wardsboro, and rescue had just had to retrieve their bodies a few days ago.

These were rec kayaks, but on a section of river very popular with class 2 whitewater boaters – in fact, WestFest is next weekend. People don’t realize the water in these brooks is coming right off the local ski areas – Mount Snow & Stratton feeds them, and the water is about 34 degrees. We routinely see people in t-shirts out on them on the first nice day. Anyway, here the stories from the Brattleboro Reformer last night & today:

Lisa Egan, Keene, NH


Wardsboro kayaker missing

By CHRIS GAROFOLO, Brattleboro Reformer Staff

Friday, April 18

JAMAICA -- A Wardsboro man who capsized his kayak in the West River Thursday afternoon is still missing after several hours of searching by authorities. David Holcomb, 24, was kayaking on the river with Matt St. Peter when both their kayaks capsized after leaving the Jamaica State Park, according to a press release from Detective Lt. Kraig LaPorte with the State Police. Neither man was wearing a lifejacket during the incident, however each had one in his kayak.

The Jamaica Fire Department responded to a report of a person in the West River north of the French Bridge on Gilfeather Road at approximately 4 p.m. Search efforts were soon initiated by the fire departments of Wardsboro, Townsend and Brattleboro and Rescue Inc. The search efforts were concentrated on the section of the river from the location where the victim was last seen in WestTownshend, according to LaPorte.

At roughly 8:30 p.m., authorities suspended the search efforts on account of darkness. State troopers continued to conduct patrols along the river area throughout the night and into the early morning, when formal search efforts will resume. According to the police report, David Holcomb was kayaking with Matt St. Peter near Gilfeather Road. St. Peter said Holcomb was in the lead when both kayaks capsized and both paddlers becamse separated from their kayaks.

St. Peter said he lost sight of Holcomb as he worked his way to shore. St. Peter was able to work his way to the river's edge and climb out of the water with only minor injuries from contact with debris in the river. Sources at the scene said St. Peter had cuts on his chest and was offered medical assistance. Troopers patrolling the area came across St. Peter walking along the south end of the river bank.

Chris Garofolo can be reached at or 802-254-2311 ext. 275.

State Police find body of missing Wardsboro kayaker

Staff report Friday, April 18

JAMAICA - The body of a missing Wardsboro kayaker was found in the West River on Friday. According to Vermont State Police, the body of David Holcomb, 24, was found at about noon by individuals walking in an area off Old Route 30 about a half-mile south of West Townshend Village. An autopsy will be conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington. Holcomb was kayaking with a friend, Matt St. Peter, on the West River on Thursday afternoon when both of their kayaks capsized. St. Peter was able to make his way to shore. Holcomb's kayak was found two miles down river. State police say neither kayaker was wearing a life jacket.

Police and rescue crews suspended their search at about 8:30 p.m., Thursday. Ground and aerial searches resumed Friday morning with swift water searchers, watercraft, ground searchers, and K-9 teams combing an area of the West River between the Jamaica State Park and the Townshend Dam. Agencies that participated in this search including Jamaica Fire and Rescue, Wardsboro Fire and Rescue, Townshend and Brattleboro fire departments, Upper Valley Bethel-Barnard-Stockbridge Swift Water Rescue, New England K-9, Vermont Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Windham County Sheriff Dept., Vermont State Police Search and Rescue Team and Vermont State Police.

Wardsboro kayaker's body found

By CHRIS GAROFOLO, Reformer Staff

Saturday, April 19

JAMAICA -- Officials Friday located the body of a Wardsboro man missing in the WestRiver since Thursday afternoon.

According to Vermont State Police, individuals walking off of Old Route 30 located a body around noon on Friday, which was confirmed by an air team surveying the river. Ground teams searched and recovered the body within hours of the confirmation.

Authorities later identified the body as that of David Holcomb, 24. He was found about a 1/2 mile south of the West TownshendVillage, roughly four miles from where he put his kayak into the river.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington will conduct an autopsy at a later date.

Formal search efforts scouted the river -- estimated to be between 32-36 degrees during the time of the incident -- with swift water searchers, ground patrols, K-9 units and aircraft combing a six-mile area between Jamaica State Park and the Townshend Dam.

The individuals who discovered the body were not part of the formal search, according to Detective Lt. Kraig LaPorte of the Vermont State Police. To lessen the amount of water flowing down the river to ease in finding the body, the Army Corps of Engineers reduced the flow from the Ball Mountain Dam.

Holcomb was an employee at the Wardsboro Country Store, as was Matt St. Peter, the other kayaker who was picked up by troopers Thursday afternoon.

Employees at the store declined to comment when contacted by the Reformer.

St. Peter, 27, sustained minor injuries after voluntarily capsizing his kayak because of a high level of debris in the water, according to LaPorte.

Relatives of St. Peter made the journey up from Massachusetts after being contacted by authorities Thursday evening.

The two had put their kayaks into the river at Jamaica State Park on Thursday, with Holcomb in the lead, according to state police.

Both men had experience kayaking on flat water, however sources close to the investigation said Holcomb had limited experience in more turbulent waters.

After voluntarily leaving the boat, St. Peter eventually lot sight of Holcomb, but managed to pull himself to the edge of the river, according to LaPorte.

Neither man was wearing a water-suit or lifejacket -- both men were in T-shirts and shorts, according to LaPorte -- although floatation devices were in their kayaks.

The loss of Holcomb adds to a stressful period in the surrounding towns after the bodies of Nicole Waring, 40, and daughters Dakota, 6, and Grace, 2, were found in the Wardsboro Brook on Saturday.

"It's been a difficult week," LaPorte said.

Along with the Vermont State Police, 87 officials with a number of other agencies participated in the search, including Rescue Inc., the Windham County Sheriff Department, the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team and the fire departments of Jamaica, Wardsboro, Townshend, Brattleboro and Hartford.

Chris Garofolo can be reached at or 802-254-2311 ext. 275.

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