Accident Database

Report ID# 3477

  • Caught in a Natural Hydraulic
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

Alison Boggs The Idaho Spokesman-Review

On May 23, Robert Desmarais, 65, of Hauser, died while participating in a guided rafting trip on the Owyhee River in Oregon Desmarais was in an inflatable kayak with another person when the vessel flipped in a rapid called Upset, Wolfe said. The water level was between 4,000 and 5,000 cubic feet per second, which Wolfe said is not considered a high water level. Both passengers were wearing life jackets, but Desmarais was trapped underwater in a river hydraulic for 15 minutes, Wolfe said.

When he surfaced, the group immediately retrieved him and began CPR but couldn’t revive him, Wolfe said. “They acted quickly, they got on a satellite phone, called for help,” Wolfe said. “Usually on a river when we lose somebody, it’s because of not having a floatation device on.” In this case, however, Wolfe said, “We didn’t see where anybody was really at fault. They were outfitted with a good outfitter. Sad as it is, it’s just one of those things that happen.” The outfitter was ROW Adventures of Coeur d’Alene. This is the first death in the company’s 32-year history, said Brad Moss, a spokesman. Wolfe said Malheur County has a rafting fatality “probably every other year.”

Idaho man drowns in Owyhee River 

By William Anderson
Argus Observer, Ontario, OR
Wednesday, May 25, 2011 11:09 AM PDT

VALE — A Hauser, Idaho, man drowned after being tossed from an inflatable kayak while rafting down the Owyhee River Monday afternoon.

A group, headed up by a reputable river guide outfitter, was rafting down the Owyhee River between Rome and Birch Creek when a two-person inflatable kayak was knocked over on the rapid called “upset”, and both people were tossed into the river and were submerged. One of the passengers surfaced quickly, while the second did not come up to the surface for about 15 minutes. When he did resurface, the man was pulled to the banks of the river, where CPR was immediately started and an air ambulance was called. Upon the arrival of the ambulance, the man was pronounced deceased. 

The man was 65-year-old Robert Desmarais, of Hauser. Malheur County Undersheriff Brian Wolfe said both passengers in the kayak were wearing PFDs and foul play is not suspected. Monday, the Owyhee River was running at about 4,400 CFS in the area of the accident.

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