Third Israeli found dead as Papua New Guinea rafting trip goes sour
Neharot Expeditions says this was first trip to Watut river in past 10 years, and that the trip was risky. By Yoav Stern Haaretz Service The body of a third Israeli white-water rafter was found Friday morning in Papua New Guinea, where two other Israelis were killed this week in a rafting expedition gone wrong. A helicopter was due to go to the river early Friday to extract the bodies of the dead Israelis and those who wish to leave.
The casualties include Shlomo Haruvi of Haifa and Itamar Haikin of Tel Aviv; the name of the third Israeli, from Gedera, was not immediately made public. The three were part of a group of 12 people charting the Watut river. Their boats capsized in an extremely rough section of water, said a spokesman for Neharot Expeditions, the Israeli company that organized the trip. The group consisted of five rafting professionals and seven river sailors with worldwide experience.
Neharot Expeditions reported that this was the first expedition to this river in the past 10 years, and that the trip was risky. "The Watut river is full of canyons, is rough and has 150 rapids," the company's site says. "To our regret, despite the expedition leaders' experience and strict safety precautions, the confrontation with the elements led to tragic results." Papua New Guinea is a state in which tribes still maintain their traditional way of life.
The rafting took place in an area inhabited by the Kukukuku tribe, which is known for its warriors. The natives, whose average height is 1.50 meters, are able to walk around in the thick shrubbery growing in Kukukuku country, according to Neharot. The natives also mine for gold. Every participant paid $4,400 to take part in the expedition, which was supposed to take three and a half weeks.
The trip included rafting on the Watut river, which was to take about seven days but was cut short after three days because of the accident. After the accident, one of the group headed for the nearest community, dozens of kilometers into the forest. From there, he contacted Israel by satellite telephone. At the request of Neharot, the Foreign Ministry on Thursday contacted Israel's embassy in Australia, which is in charge of Papua New Guinea, and called the authorities to help retrieve the two Israelis' bodies and find the missing one.
Kukukuku country is mountainous and steep, which may make the rescue extremely difficult. Weather conditions could change radically, as this is the end of the monsoon season. The rapids are surrounded by a thick jungle full of papaya, mango and banana trees and birds of all kinds. In some places, the river is swarming with giant crocodiles whose length can reach eight meters, according to Neharot Expeditions.