Accident Database

Report ID# 3540

  • Swim into Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

New River Gorge Cunard to Fayette Station

Gauge - Fayette Station 0.1 ft..
Paul Scrutton & Jon Godwin

We took our big boats to the NRG to simulate a race-paddle for the upcoming Captain Thurmond race. The river at 0.1 ft had plenty of flat water between the rapids.

The trip got off to an unusual start at Upper Railroad rapid, the first rapid on this section of the river. As we paddled just left of the large hole that defines the start of the rapid, we noticed several throwlines across the river, and what looked like a class or rescue going on. We paddled down and asked some questions. People standing on the side of the river did not give us the thumbs up, we paddled down into an eddy to see what was going on.

There were 2 rafts, a video-boater, and several people positioned next to a boulder half way down the rapid, and raft guides were using swift water skills to wade up to the rock. After a short period it became obvious that a person was trapped underneath or in front of the boulder. Talking to other kayakers who had witnessed the scene for the duration of the event it became apparent that the person had been trapped for about 15 mins.

The raft guides worked for about 10-15 mins, and freed up the body presaumably, and two of the guides broke way and floated off down the river. The next thing that I saw was that CPR was being administered by the guides on the side of the bank, and the victim was put onto a backboard. I paddled over to offer a CPR mask. This was not needed, but I was asked to paddle down to the other rafts in the group on river right to inform them that the company was performing an evacuation on river left. I passed on that information to the respective raft guides, amongst complete silence from the various groups of rafters.

We paddled down fast to hit the next rapids. As we met up with newer groups of happy rafters, we could tell they were unaware of the sad event that had taken place upstream. 


Drowning after Rafting Accident

Saturday July 16 at approximately 11:30, an Alpine Adventures raft overturned at the class III Upper Railroad Rapid in the New River Gorge National River. The raft was one of 8 rafts and 51 guests that put in at Cunard. This was the trip's first major rapid on their Lower New River. As the raft dropped into the first hole located at the top of the rapid, it turned broadside to the wave . This maneuver caused a weight transfer which resulted in everyone aboard falling into the water.

Judy Brown of Cumberland MD was one of the people who fell from the raft. She was able to swim a portion of the rapid,  but became entrapped at a rock commonly referred to as “Detroit Rock”. This rock is located approximately half way through the rapid close to the center of the river, and is river right of the normal commercial run. Sometime during the swim, Brown’s life jacket came off. It is unclear if the jacket came out before or after she became entrapped.

The National Park Service River Patrol became aware of the incident whilemonitoring commercial river radio traffic, and was on scene shortly after the accident. Statements indicate that Ms. Brown was underwater approximately 30 minutes before lifesaving efforts could be started. She was freed from the rock after Alpine guides and bystanders managed to place a flip line around her body and pull her upstream, which in turn freed her from the entrapment. CPR supported by an AED were initiated by River Rangers.

Brown was transported to Platuea Medical Center via General Ambulance where she was declared dead. Rangers from the National Park, Alpine Guides, and Rivermen employees assisted in the rescue efforts. The National Park Service and WV Natural Resources are investigating the accident.

Jeff West
New River Gorge National River
Chief Ranger
Glen Jean, WV 25846

July 17, 2011
Woman dies in rafting accident on New

GLEN JEAN, W.Va. -- A Maryland woman has drowned after a weekend rafting accident on the New River Gorge National River. The National Park Service said Sunday in a release that Judy Brown of Cumberland, Md., was among those who fell overboard from an Alpine Adventures raft as it overturned in the Upper Railroad Rapid about 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Chief Ranger Jeff West says Brown became entrapped at an area known as Detroit Rock, close to the center of the river. At some point, Brown's life vest came off, but it's unclear whether it was before or after she became entrapped. She later was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The National Park Service River Patrol arrived at the scene shortly after the accident. West says witness statements indicate that Brown was underwater about 30 minutes before lifesaving efforts could be started.

The National Park Service and the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources are investigating the accident.


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