Accident Database

Report ID# 3006

  • Flush Drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

1 rafter dead, 1 critically injured in Girdwood Icy Rapids:

A California woman perished after the group of four fell in.

By JAMES HALPIN Anchorage Daily News

Published: September 4th, 2008 12:32 AM

A trip down turbulent river rapids in Girdwood turned deadly Wednesday afternoon, with one woman killed and her husband critically injured, according to Alaska State Troopers and the city fire department. Four people rafting down Glacier Creek fell into its frigid waters shortly before 12:45 p.m., but only three came out alive, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said. Killed in the churning waters was Ronnie Zoffer, 73, of Laguna Hills, Calif., Peters said. Her husband, identified by troopers as Charles Zoffer, 75, was critically injured and flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center.

Uninjured were Daniel Paz, of Anchorage, and Lance Terry, of Girdwood, Peters said. Initial reports were that one of those men was missing, but he actually swam out of the current upriver of the rest and tried to walk through the woods to find a road and help, she said. The man -- Peters didn't know which -- was picked up in good condition. "The other three were basically on the sandbar, which was basically a good thing, because that's where we were able to get the helicopters in," said Girdwood Fire Department Chief Bill Chadwick.

Rescuers, including firefighters hiking up on foot as well as the helicopters, found a survivor performing CPR on Ronnie Zoffer about a half mile from the hand tram on the Crow Creek Mine Trail.

Chadwick said the raft was guided by Alaska Backcountry Access, a "multi-sport adventure company" that offers tours out of Girdwood, according to its Web site. Messages left for the company's owner, Andy Morrison, were not returned Wednesday. Chadwick said he didn't know exactly what went wrong on the water, but that conditions in the area have been rough in recent days, with fairly heavy rains -- several inches in the past few days -- pummeling the valley. Rivers were swelling and creating hazardous conditions, he said. "I'm not sure exactly what happened out there," Chadwick said. "It sounds like they probably got into a situation that they probably shouldn't have been in."

Find James Halpin online at or call him at 257-4589.

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