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Accident Description


I work for the U.S. Army at Fort Knox, KY and occasionally receive safety-related e-mail messages. I've cut and pasted below a message that I received today about an Army soldier who died in a rafting accident. I have no information beyond what is contained in the e-mail message below. The message refers to the victim as a PFC. That is his rank--private first class.

RIVER RAFTING ACCIDENT CLAIMS ONE SOLDIER'S LIFE

The body of a 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington, Soldier was recovered on 2 June 2009. The 23-year-old PFC had been missing since a river rafting accident that occurred on 17 May 2009 at approximately 1800 local in Thurston County, Washington. The Soldier had been river rafting with three other friends in a privately owned raft when it capsized after hitting an underwater obstruction. All were able to make it to shore except for the PFC. The Soldier was not wearing a life preserver even though one was available.

Life preservers are designed for freedom of movement and should be worn at all times to mitigate the risk while river rafting. Fort Lewis is a long way from Fort Knox, but we have water fun here, too. Many boaters believe themselves to be good swimmers and exempt from the requirement to wear life preservers, but below is a good example of why one should always wear a preserver. Almost one year ago, a Fort Knox Soldier drowned in the Salt River while not wearing a life preserver. Don't let yourself, your family, or your buddy become another number in the statistics column.

Director of Safety The Armor Center and Fort Knox Bldg 1109C, Rm 229 Ft. Knox, KY 40121

 Still No Sign Of Soldier Missing On Nisqually River

May 17, 2009 THURSTON COUNTY, Wash. -- There is no sign Tuesday of a Fort Lewis soldier who has been missing since Sunday after his raft flipped over in the Nisqually River. Fellow soldiers and rescue boats spent Monday searching for the 23-year-old missing Fort Lewis soldier. Authorities said 200 more soldiers are joining the search on Wednesday. The man was among eight other soldiers and one 8-year-old child who were in three rafts when they hit an obstruction in the Nisqually River between Yelm and the Nisqually Indian Reservation, Thurston County sheriff's Lt. John Price told KIRO TV.

Price said all three rafts capsized and eight adults and the one child made it back to shore. Some soldiers said they saw the missing man floating in the very cold, fast current. The child was the only person wearing a life jacket, said Lt. Paul Counts of the Thurston County Sheriff's Office. Investigators said the adults were on inexpensive rafts that were overloaded and clearly not meant for riding on the river. "A lot of tragedy occurs on this river because people don't give it the respect it deserves. It looks like it's a lazy river and it's not. It's a dangerous river to be on," said Dave Pearsall of the Thurston County Sheriff's Office.

KIRO 7 reporter Richard Thompson said he spoke with an experienced kayaker who was on the river and saw the soldiers on Sunday. He said in his opinion, the adults were not prepared for the river. “As I saw them, I knew they were potentially high risk,” said kayaker Brent Sund. Sund said the soldiers had a cooler full of beer, inadequate equipment, no skills and only the boy was wearing a life jacket.

Searchers headed out in the water and on the ground but were unable to find the soldier by the time the water search was called off just after 10:45 p.m. Sunday. Army helicopters and a Washington State Patrol airplane joined the search Monday, scouting the river from above. About 200 soldiers also searched on land while divers searched in the water. "We are very hopeful we will find the soldier tired, but alive," said Maj. Mike Garcia of the U.S. Army. The missing soldier is a member of the Stryker Brigade and an Iraq war veteran.

By KOMO Staff

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Search and rescue crews have recovered a body from the Nisqually River.

Thurston County Sheriff Chief Dave Pearsall said deputies were called about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday when someone spotted the body in the water near Frank's Landing. The location is about 2 ½ miles downstream from where a 23-year-old Fort Lewis soldier disappeared when his raft capsized on May 18.

Pearsall said the identity of the person found Tuesday has not been confirmed.

By KOMO Staff

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Search and rescue crews have recovered a body from the Nisqually River.

Thurston County Sheriff Chief Dave Pearsall said deputies were called about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday when someone spotted the body in the water near Frank's Landing.

The location is about 2 ½ miles downstream from where a 23-year-old Fort Lewis soldier disappeared when his raft capsized on May 18.

Pearsall said the identity of the person found Tuesday has not been confirmed.

PFC Robert Wheatley Jr. was one of nine people on three rafts which capsized in the river when they hit a log jam. The other eight made it to shore safely. Crews searched the river for days but Wheatley's body was not found. was one of nine people on three rafts which capsized in the river when they hit a log jam. The other eight made it to shore safely.


Crews searched the river for days but Wheatley's body was not found.

Body of missing Ft. Lewis soldier may have been found

11:48 AM PDT on Tuesday, June 2, 2009
 

NEAR LACEY, Wash. – Searchers in Thurston County think they may have found the body of a Fort Lewis soldier who disappeared last month. A boater saw a body floating down the Nisqually River near Lacey Tuesday morning. A sheriff’s office spokesman says it’s believed to be the body of 23-year-old Pfc. Robert Wheatley. Wheatley got separated from a group of rafters last month. Thurston County’s marine unit is retrieving the body.