Accident Database

Report ID# 351

  • Caught in a Natural Hydraulic
  • Does not Apply
  • Inexperience
  • One Boat Trip
  • Poor Planning

Accident Description


Deschutes River near Bend, OR: July 6, 1993

DESCRIPTION: Two brothers, Stephen Sheldon and Ben Lockhart, planned a casual class II float with their kids on July 6. But they made a tragic mistake. They thought they'd launched their raft below Dillon Falls on the Deschutes, a popular Oregon river. Instead, they made a wrong turn and put in where most groups take out, just above a 10' high Class VI drop. Their two lightweight vinyl rafts were torn apart. Both adults drowned despite wearing horse-collar PFD's. Mr. Lockhart's children, aged 3, 4, and 7, were recovered downstream. His 4 year old clung to the edge of a cliff in waist-deep water for three hours before rescuers could be lowered to him.

SOURCES: John Eaton and John McClenny posting to;  the Worcester Telegram.

ANALYSIS: Inexperience, and an unfamiliarity with the river caused the death. These falls are apparently well marked with riverside signs. Unfortunately, the signs are placed well upstream of the "takeout" which was this party's launch site.



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