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Accident Description

ew River Gorge National River (WV)
Two Drown In Separate Rafting Accidents On Gauley River

The Gauley River National Recreation Area and the community of Summersville are hosts to American Whitewater's largest festival of the year â the Gauley Fest. Originally started 1983 to celebrate the derailment of a hydro-electric project that would have dewatered the upper river, Gauley Fest today is one of the largest whitewater festivals in the world and attracts tens of thousands of people. Canyon District and Gauley rangers mobilized to handle the large crowds and traffic. Few law enforcement incidents resulted from the crowds, but rangers conducted six whitewater patrols, assisting many visitors who were pitched from their boats, handled three emergency evacuations (a back injury, a dislocated shoulder, and a seizure) from the remote area, and recovered two drowning victims.

The first occurred on Sunday, September 19th. A 26-year-old foreign exchange student, Jie An Yang, spilled out of her commercial raft along with several others at the Iron Curtain rapid on the Gauley River at approximately 9:30 a.m. Iron Curtain rapid is located approximately 3.2 miles below the Lake Summersville Dam. Raft guides commenced a search immediately and notified the National Park Service. NPS rangers trained for swift water rescue, Department of Natural Resources personnel, the Summersville dive rescue team, the Nicholas County Sheriffâs Department, a Jan Care ambulance crew, and the Kesslerâs Cross Lanes volunteer fire department responded and began search efforts. Initial search efforts were unsuccessful, so the National Park Service made a request for a reduction in the river flow.

The Army Corps of Engineers at the Summersville Dam commenced a progressive drawdown of the Gauley River at approximately 11:00 a.m. to reduce the amount of water cascading through the river corridor. Normal river flows at the time of the accident were about 2800 cubic feet per second. The drawdown resulted in flows of about 200 cubic feet per second, which allowed rescuers and divers to begin working in the pools in and around the Iron Curtain rapid. The victim was found under a large rock that was undercut by the river around 4 p.m. and her body was recovered. The accident investigation is ongoing.

Location: Iron Curtin Rapid; Stampit Rock above Whale Rock;

snagged on tree with old paddle,

Kessler's Crossroads VFD used underwater camera; body recovered 4:00

Drowning in Upper Gauley during Whitewater Rafting Trip

Posted Sunday, September 19, 2010 ; 05:00 PM | View Comments | Post Comment
Updated Monday, September 20, 2010; 07:18 AM

A female has died while whitewater rafting on the Gauley River.

SUMMERSVILLE -- Update 9 p.m. Sunday Sept. 19 While the name of the individual has not been released, authorities will confirm that she she was a student at the University of Illinois.

Original Story: According to a news release, officials with the National Park Service, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and Songer Whitewater have reported that an unidentified female, “drowned after falling out of her raft near a rapid known as Iron Curtain.”

The accident happened after 9 a.m. The news release also states that the female became pinned in rocks while underwater. Guides attempted to rescue her but efforts were unsuccessful.

Rescue teams retrieved the female's body around 4:20 p.m.

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and the National Park Service are investigating this accident.


From a reader:

My understanding is that a Songer raft flipped off Magnetic Rock at the runout of Iron Curtain Rapid.  One guest was unaccounted for.  This happened about 9:30am.  Water was cut to about 1400cfs thirty minutes after and maintained until the end of the scheduled release.  Her body was recovered that evening.  The search was initially focused on the large undercut downstream and to the left.  Apparently she was trapped on an unknown strainer on Magnetic Rock itself.  Her body was recovered at 4:20pm according to news reports.  She was 25 and a student at the University of Illinois.

From a long-time Gauley guide:

The victim was leg trapped in some sort of woody debris strainer 10 feet under water on the river right upstream face of the large boulder in the middle of the river below Iron Curtain Rapid.  She was about 150 pounds and still had her pfd on when recovered, but no helmet.  There was also an algae covered paddle and a bailing bucket caught in the pile, so it apparently is a long standing deep strainer.  At the level when the incident occurred she would have to have been pushed 12 feet or more underwater.  Perhaps someone fell on top of her and pushed her down, but that's pretty deep.  There may well be some sort of downward water flow there that helped her along.  That rock is slightly undercut with a visible overhang of a foot or so at 200 cfs, but no visible strainer at that level.