Accident Database

Report ID# 2885

  • Impact/Trauma
  • Spinal Injury

Accident Description

 Alyson Oten/KTVB

BOISE - After fighting crime for 36 years -- retired Idaho State Police Director Dan Charboneau wages a new battle after a river rafting accident. Charboneau, 60, is in critical condition at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, with serious injuries to his spinal chord. While his family says he's making progress, the fear of paralysis looms. The rafting trip had been in the planning stages for a year - an annual event with friends and family. Charboneau and 18 others were to set out on the trip - all of them experienced rafters. "He's been rafting as long as I have, about 12 years," Dan's son Jordan Charboneau said.

One year after retiring from his ISP job, Charboneau has had even more time to enjoy recreational opportunities. But the day he launched on a weeklong, 100-mile journey last week, was also the day a strong storm rolled through Idaho. Downstream on the middle fork of the Salmon River a rockslide had just created a new, uncharted rapid. "It was just a flat section with a lot of hydraulics that resulted from that landslide and when he tried to back away from a rock," Jordan said.

"His oars pulled him out of the boat and threw him into the water." Jordan saw it all happen. "I just screamed out, 'he's in, he's in!'" Jordan said. "There was a bit of panic, a lot of adrenaline and just think I don't what condition he's in I just need to get to him and see what I can do." Jordan and two others jumped in for the river rescue. Charboneau was alive, but hurt -- suffering from a delicate spinal chord injury. "I was pretty scared," Jordan said.

But with a paramedic and two EMTs on this trip -- professional help was immediately available. "It was probably best case scenario that it did happen to us because we were so well prepared for any type of emergency," friend and paramedic Chris Hendershot said. Hendershot helped secure Charboneau to a makeshift backboard, then floated him one-mile downstream where a Life Flight helicopter could land. After nine hours of surgery, Charboneau is in critical condition at St. Alphonsus. Four vertebrae in his neck have been fused and there is some paralysis.

But family, friends and doctors are hopeful it's temporary. "You can tell, looking in his eyes, he's doing everything he can to get going with it. He's ready. He's gonna get through it," Jordan said. "We're gonna have our ups and downs, but we're gonna take those 'ups' pretty happily, anything's gonna be good news." Dan Charboneau is unable to speak right now because he's on a ventilator. He communicates mostly through flash cards and remains in the intensive care unit.


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Associated Press - July 29, 2008 9:54 AM ET

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The former director of the Idaho State Police is in critical condition following a rafting accident on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Dan Charboneau, 60, was on a guided trip of the river when he fell out of the raft Saturday on a stretch about 45 miles southwest of Salmon. He is recovering at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. Witnesses told authorities that Charboneau appeared to have suffered a dislocated shoulder, partial paralysis and was having difficulty breathing. Federal land managers say the thunderstorms last week have flushed debris and created new rapids on stretches of the Middle Fork. But it's unclear if those new conditions played a role in the accident.

Information from: Idaho Statesman,

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