June 1, on the Rogue River, Robert Blight, 42, drowned swimming after his raft, which had floated away during a lunch break. Blight was not wearing a PFD. His friend, who was wearing a PFD, survived. The Rogue was flowing about 7,000 cfs then, roughly 4 times the summer flow.
June 9, 2008 ROGUE RAFTER FOUND BODY OF ROGUE RAFTER FOUND
Published: June 9, 2008
By Valliant Corley Pilot staff writer
GOLD BEACH – The body of a California man was found Sunday, about seven miles downstream from where he was swept away in the icy, fast-flowing Rogue River following a rafting mishap a week earlier near Paradise Lodge, approximately 52 miles east of Gold Beach. Robert Blight, 41, was presumed drowned after he and Dino James Fry, 41, of Hayward, Calif., attempted to swim across the river after their raft drifted away while the two were ashore. Fry had told sheriff's officers the two had beached their raft about 12:15 p.m. June 1 when it drifted away. They attempted to swim across the river from the south side to the north where the Rogue River trail is located and is the only other way down the river. Fry was wearing a life jacket and made it to the north side of the river while Blight was not wearing a life jacket and became separated from Fry.
On Sunday, the Curry County sheriff's office received a call from the Clay Hill Lodge, about 45 miles east of Gold Beach, reporting that a rafter had spotted a body in the river near the mouth of Tate Creek, a mile above Clay Hill Lodge, Sgt. John Ward said. Marine Deputies Ted Heath and Walter Scherbarth responded to the area after launching their boat at Quosatana Creek. Ward said Heath and Scherbarth located the body at about 3:49 p.m., just above the dangerous Clay Hill Rapids and only had a matter of seconds to retrieve it before the body drifted into the rapids. Heath had identified the body by photographs provided by the victim's family to be that of Robert Blight. The condition of the body was consistent with that of someone who had been submerged in the water for that length of time, Ward said.
Family members had driven from different parts of California to Gold Beach on Friday and were taken by Heath and Scherbarth to the Paradise Lodge area on Saturday so the family members could see where the drowning occurred. Family members were just leaving Gold Beach Sunday to return home and were contacted and told that Blight had been located, Ward said. Heath and Scherbarth took the body back to Quosatana Creek where Blight's remains were released to Redwood Memorial of Brookings. Family members were at the boat ramp when the marine deputies arrived with Blight, Ward said.
Efforts to locate Robert Blight were made every day of the week since his disappearance by the Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Forest Service, local tour boats, rafters and other river users. The Coast Guard flew the entire Rogue River drainage from Paradise Creek to the mouth of the Rogue River on Wednesday, Ward said.
6/02/2008 ROGUE RIVER RAFTER MISSING ROGUE RIVER RAFTER MISSING, PRESUMED DROWNED
Published: June 2, 2008 GOLD BEACH – A California man is missing and presumed to have drowned in the icy, fast-flowing Rogue River following a rafting mishap Sunday near Paradise Lodge, approximately 52 miles east of Gold Beach. Robert Blight, 41, was presumed drowned after he and his companion attempted to swim across the river after their raft drifted away while the two were ashore, said Curry County Sheriff Marine Deputy Ted Heath said. Dino James Fry, 41, of Hayward, Calif., told authorities the two had beached their raft for lunch about 12:15 p.m. when it drifted away. They attempted to swim across the river from the south side to the north where the Rogue River trail is located, and is the only other way down the river. Fry was wearing a life jacket and managed to make it to the north side of the river. Blight was not wearing a life jacket and became separated from Fry. He was last seen drifting downstream.
Fry was able to summon help from Paradise Lodge and kept looking for Blight in the river. The sheriff's Marine Patrol along with two members of the sheriff's Search and Rescue swift water rescue team responded and searched until late in the day but did not find Blight. The Rogue River is flowing at an increased rate due to snow melt in the mountains and also remains colder than normal for this time of the year, sheriff's deputies said.
Body of South Bay man who died rafting in Oregon found days after he disappeared
By Gideon Rubin, Bay Area News Group, Mercury News, San Francisco
HAYWARD - Robert Blight's appetite for wilderness adventure led him to the far reaches of the world. But on a cold morning earlier this month, it led to his death on a rafting trip in Oregon.
Blight, 42, who lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains, was with his lifelong pal, Dino Fry, 41, of Hayward on a weeklong trip traversing the treacherous Rogue River in Southern Oregon. On June 1, during a lunch break on the south side of the river, their raft was taken away by a powerful current.
Blight was swept away when the two men tried to swim 40 feet to the river's north shore, where the only trail leading them out of the wilderness was located. Curry County sheriff's deputies on Sunday found Blight's body about five miles downstream from the incident. Fry and Blight's brother, William, joined authorities in the recovery.
Robert Blight and Fry were raised in San Mateo and had known each other since attending McKinley Institute of Technology Middle School in sixth grade. Blight graduated from San Jose State with an electronics degree, but worked mostly in construction, between offroad motorcycle races in Mexico and rafting trips to Belize and Australia, Fry said.
Blight, an expert rafter, and Fry had planned the Oregon trip for years, entering a lottery to paddle the heavily regulated Rogue waters. "The 42 years that Bob was alive, Bob lived his life," Fry said Monday. "He did a lot of stuff for his age." of their lives on the trip, eating cold pepperoni pizza and slapping high fives as they pulled off dangerous maneuvers through some of the West Coast's most treacherous rapids - at one point traversing backward through 'Blossom Bar,' which featured a menacing collection of rocks called the 'Picket Fence' and the 'Shark's Tooth.'
The men were taking a break 51 miles from Gold Beach when their raft drifted away from shore. Authorities said unusually high snow runoff led to waters that were colder and faster than normal.
Fry had his lifejacket on when the two men tried to swim across the river. Blight attempted the swim across without a lifejacket, which he'd left on the raft, Fry said.
The two had a heated exchange before deciding to try to cross the frigid waters. They were wearing wet shorts and feared they'd die if stranded in the wilderness.
"We were panicking that we were going to be stuck in the wilderness with no clothes and no food," Fry said. He added that a powerful current through the middle of the river and whirlpools on the sides caused by rocks and trees made it nearly impossible to swim.
Fry said he grabbed an oar left on the shore and tried to swim sideways to the northern shore, with Blight grabbing the other side of the oar. The cold water, about 50 degrees, was shocking, Fry said.
"Every word that I spoke used my entire breath, and I felt myself getting dizzy like I was becoming unconscious," he said. "That may have been what happened to Bob, I don't know."
Blight lost his grip, and before Fry could yell "grab oar," his friend was already drifting downstream. "I was horrified," Fry said. "At that point, my heart sunk. I've never experienced anything like that in my entire life, and I hope I never do again."
Blight's brother William said a memorial service will be held Saturday in Hayward. He said that in this tragedy, friends and family can take comfort in knowing Blight died in an element he loved. "He was out having fun," he said. "He was having a blast the last two days of his life."
Reach Gideon Rubin at 510-293-2469 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NB: The Rogue is a heavily used commercial river; I doubt if they would have waited long for help.