This was a marathon trip from Summersville Dam to Swiss with a group of experienced guests. The woman was found pinned on the rock some call “Face” about 75 yards below Volkswagon Rock. It appeared to be a full body pin caused by the force of the water, however this is only a guess based on her floating up once water level was dropped. She was not over weight and appeared to be in good physical condition. She was probably pinned about eight feet under the surface at 3200 cfs. She had her lifejacket and helmet still on when we recovered her.
From: Adventures on the Gorge
Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2011
To: Dave Arnold
At approximately 8:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 26, a commercial raft with six guests and an experienced guide overturned at the Pillow Rock Rapid on the Upper Gauley River. Everyone in the raft was ejected and river guides pulled all but one rafter out of the river. Guides initiated emergency procedures and began a search for the missing rafter. The National Park Service was notified at 8:45 a.m. and responded with rangers and river patrol.
At approximately 2:50 p.m., after a search which included the National Park Service, Department of Natural Resources, Carnifex Ferry State Park rangers, Kessler Cross Lanes VFD, West Virginia State Police and West Virginia National Guard, the rafter was spotted pinned against an undercut rock about 75 yards below Pillow Rock Rapid.
The rafter was a guest of Adventure West Virginia Resort. According to Dave Arnold, managing partner of the resort, guests on the raft were experienced on the Gauley River and the raft guide is an 18-year veteran of rafting on the Gauley River. The rafter's name is being withheld until family members are notified.
The river was flowing at about 3,200 cubic feet per second when the raft overturned. While the down river search was executed, the US Army Corps of Engineers reduced flow following its procedural protocol to about 500 cubic feet per second when a rescuer spotted a life vest and recovered the body. The rafter was found about eight feet below the surface after the water level was dropped and pronounced dead at the scene by the West Virginia medical examiner.
Arnold said that everyone who supported the rescue and recovery efforts is to be commended for their professionalism and responsive actions. Our company and employees are deeply saddened by the accident.
Please call to Jeff West, National Park Service chief ranger, at 304-640-8801 for more information.
Body of Missing Rafter Recovered
Posted Monday, September 26, 2011 ; 03:35 PM
The woman who drowned was 40 years old, from West Virginia.
CARNIFEX FERRY -- The National Park Service said the drowning happened around 8:30 a.m. Monday.According to NPS, a raft with six people on board overturned at the Pillow Rock Rapid on the Gauley River. Everyone in the raft was ejected. When one rafter did not surface, emergency search efforts began. The woman's body was recovered around 3.p.m. just below the Pillow Rock Rapid. The woman was 40 years old and from West Virginia. She was on a commercial rafting trip with Adventures WV. The company said she was an experienced rafter. Her name is not being released pending notification of family. Pillow Rock is located about four miles below Summersville Dam. This is a class V rapid and has a 30 foot drop over the course of the run. The US Army Corps of Engineers reduced flow to the rapid gradually over several hours to allow other rafts to safely navigate down the river.
Copyright 2011 West Virginia Media. All rights reserved.
Drowning after Raft Overturns on the Gauley River
On Monday, September 26, at approximately 8:30 AM, a commercial raft with
six people on board overturned at the Pillow Rock Rapid in the Gauley River
National Recreation Area. The river was flowing at about 3200 cubic feet
per second when the raft overturned. Everyone in the raft was ejected, and
river guides pulled all of the rafters out of the river and conducted a
When the count came up one short, guides initiated emergency
protocols and began searching for the rafter. The missing rafter was
identified as a 40 year old female from West Virginia. The National Park
Service was notified at 8:45 AM and responded with rangers and river patrol
units; in addition, the Department of Natural Resources, Carnifex Ferry
State Park rangers, Kessler Cross Lanes VFD, the WV State Police, and the
WV National Guard responded to assist. Nicholas County Emergency services,
and Jan Care also reported out to the search area to assist.
A down river search of other rafts, trails and access points was conducted
while river units began a detailed search of the Pillow Rock rapids. Pillow
Rock is located about 4 miles below Summersville Dam. This is a class V
rapid and has a 30' drop over the course of the run. The US Army Corps of
Engineers reduced flow to the rapid gradually over several hours to allow
other rafts to safely navigate down the river.
At about 2:52 PM, with theflow down to about 500 cubic feet per second, NPS River Rangers Kathy Zerkle and Matt McQueen spotted a life vest under a large unnamed rock
below the Pillow Rock Rapids. At 3:09 PM, the missing rafter's body was recovered and moved to shore where she was pronounced dead by a West Virginia medical examiner. The victim's name is being withheld pending the notification of her family.
It pretty much looks like it was just a fluke accident after a pretty clear swim.
The rock is an unnamed outcrop below the rapid.
Jeff West, Chief Ranger
New River Gorge National River