Accident Database

Report ID# 3297

  • Flush Drowning
  • Head Injury / Concussion
  • Cold Water
  • High Water

Accident Description

Whitewater rafter drowns on Cheat River outing

By The Associated Press

ALBRIGHT, W.Va. (AP) - Authorities say a 52-year-old Pennsylvania man who drowned on a whitewater rafting trip on the Cheat River fell out of the boat and struck his head on a rock. The accident occurred Sunday afternoon on a stretch of whitewater in the Cheat Canyon known as Big Nasty.

A medical examiner listed Allen Keith Stewart's cause of death as head trauma and drowning. Stewart was from Ohiopyle, Pa. Four others were in his boat at the time.
Paddlers on the scene reported that Allen "Big Al" Stewart had retired from the military and worked for the rafting company as a bus driver and ground crewman. The painted gauge on the old railroad bridge read 5' on the nose.
Mr. Stewart fell out of his raft at the bottom of Big Nasty Rapid.  The safety boater got to him quickly; Mr Stewart  was initially holding onto the kayak but quickly became unresponsive.  He was in the water from below Big Nasty to well below Even Nastier. Eventually the safety boater had to pull his skirt, bail out, grab him, and swim him to shore.
Four medical professionals on the trip assisted the guides in performing CPR. Mr. Stewart was taken across the river and up the hill to the AWP logging road. 
The DNR says that head trauma contributed to his death. Someone said his helmet was new and had some pretty serious scratches. But medical professionals performing CPR saw no signs of head injury. It's possible he hit his head somewhere other than Big Nasty, since he was in the water for some distance.

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!