One dead, two injured after guided white water raft capsizes on Spokane River at Bowl and Pitcher
UPDATED: Tue., July 3, 2018, 10:07 p.m.
Emergency responders wait at the scene where one person is reported to have died and two others injured when a guided-tour raft overturned on the Spokane River near the Bowl and Pitcher area of Riverside State Park on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. (Rebecca White / The Spokesman-Review)
By Jonathan Glover and Rebecca White The Spokesman-Review
One person died and two were injured when a guided-tour raft overturned Tuesday afternoon on the Spokane River near the Bowl and Pitcher area of Riverside State Park.Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said the rafting trip was a family event that included adults and teenagers split between two boats. When one raft overturned about 1 p.m., some of the passengers were able to swim to safety and some were assisted by bystanders, he said.
Kyle Murphy, 26, a park visitor who witnessed the raft capsize, said a rafting guide instructed him to check on two people who had been swept downriver in the current. He ran about three-fourths of a mile down the riverbank, where he saw a person climbing up the rocks and a woman floating near the center of the river. He swam out and pulled her to the bank, where another park visitor, Derek Garcia, began CPR and Garcia’s girlfriend, Kelsey Groff, called 911.
Emergency responders arrived, but were unable to resuscitate the woman, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Two others who were injured when the raft capsized were transported to MultiCare Deaconess Hospital with minor to moderate injuries, Schaeffer said.
Schaeffer said the people on the rafts came from out of town to meet for a family outing. He said they took the necessary safety precautions, such as wearing cold-water gear and life jackets and using certified boats.
“Everything I’ve been able to see so far, this family and the company that does the service, they did everything right,” Schaeffer said.
Schaeffer said the natural obstructions that make the river beautiful are also extremely dangerous. He urged those considering water sports over the Fourth of July holiday to consider the inherent risks that areas like the Bowl and Pitcher can pose to watercraft.
The company that operates the rafting service, Superior, Montana-based Pangaea River Rafting, offers tours in Washington, Idaho and Montana, according to its website. One of the services it offers in Spokane is a two-hour white water trip on the Spokane River, which is advertised as a “beginner” skill-level course for ages 6 and up.
David Lawrence, owner of the company, said Tuesday afternoon he couldn’t comment until he arrives on scene, but said the guests are the company’s first responsibility.
The Spokane Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled accidental drowning as the cause of death after a woman’s raft capsized Tuesday on the Spokane River near Bowl and Pitcher in Riverside State Park. Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said the woman, whom the medical examiner identified as Deise C. Nagle, was from Colorado and was on a family rafting trip.
David Lawrence, owner of Pangaea River Rafting, said that prior to the outing, guides had split 12 people between two rafts. Two passengers on one of the rafts were caught off balance when the raft hit a current, and they fell into the water, he said.
The passengers who had gone overboard grabbed onto a perimeter rope running around the raft, and the current pushed the boat into a rock and it capsized. The others were thrown into the water and the second raft moved to assist them. A few passengers were able to swim to shore. Nagle floated downstream.
Kyle Murphy, who was visiting the park with family, and Derek Garcia, who was there on a picnic, pulled Nagle from the water and began life-saving efforts. The efforts were unsuccessful, and Nagle was pronounced dead on scene.
Prior to the incident, Lawrence said Pangaea River Rafting, which is based in Montana, had never had a customer drown or become seriously injured in the 13 years they have operated in the Spokane area.“Our guides did everything they possibly could do and acted exceptionally under the circumstances,” Lawrence said.
He said he can’t comment on any possible changes the company might make after Nagle’s death, but they were reviewing the incident. He added that everyone was wearing approved personal flotation devices and guides had given a safety talk before they entered the water.
“Despite all of the things that were done,” Lawrence said, “an unfortunate accident happened anyway.”