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Accident Description


Updated at 8:30 a.m.:

Missing Man’s Body Apparently Found Along Chehalis River

Deputies Put Themselves at Risk During Search

April 19, 2012 

DOTY — Deputies planning a search for a man who went missing on the Chehalis River last Saturday during the Pe Ell River Run discovered a body Thursday evening. Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Commander Steve Aust said he can’t positively identify the body as that of 24-year-old Olympia resident Daniel Kuhn, but added that it matched the description of the missing man.

Members of the sheriff’s office and the Lewis County Coroner’s Office successfully removed the body from a steep embankment below a former trestle used along a portion of the Willapa Hills Trail, just upstream from the Chandler River Bridge, at about 7 p.m.

A swift water rescue team had planned on searching for Kuhn again on Sunday. Two deputies certified for swift water rescues had been observing the river in preparation for the upcoming search on Thursday afternoon, Aust said.The pair decided to move across the river and conduct a search of their own while in the area about 450 yards upstream from the "Rails to Trails" trestle. Donning wetsuits, they waded across the river and in the process made the discovery, Aust said."One of them ended up basically feeling him on the bottom of the river in about five feet of water,” Aust said. “It was one in a million as far as coming across him."

While pulling the body to shore, the deputies battled the same cold water and swift current that is suspected of claiming Kuhn’s life, Aust said. It took them about 25 minutes to bring the body to shore. "The deputies did an amazing job,” he added. “They went above and beyond on this one and put themselves at risk to recover this body."

Kuhn, an Iraq War veteran, hadn’t been seen since he separated from a group of friends on Saturday. He said he would meet them at the Chandler Road Bridge but never appeared. Friends reported Kuhn, who was dressed in a red hat, white tank top, blue jean shorts and white shoes, missing on Monday. When Kuhn did not show up by 8 p.m. Saturday, the rest of his group left. They thought he may have left with other friends, the sheriff’s office said. By Monday, Kuhn’s friends realized he was missing and contacted the sheriff’s office.

The Chehalis Fire Department’s swift water rescue team searched a three-mile portion of the Chehalis River between Elk Creek Road and the Chandler Road Bridge Tuesday afternoon in kayaks for clues. There was no sign of Kuhn. Around the same time, a Doty-area resident reported that he found a raft on Sunday that matched the description of Kuhn’s raft.

Aust said that Kuhn seemingly made several mistakes that ultimately led to his apparent demise. Noting what he called the “50/50/50 rule” — meaning the average person has a 50 percent chance of swimming 50 yards in water of 50 degrees or below — he said Kuhn shouldn’t have isolated himself. The initial investigation found that he had also been consuming alcohol prior to his disappearance, Aust said.

"He made some major mistakes in not being in a proper sized vessel, no life jacket, drinking and not having people to help him,” Aust said.

The Lewis County Coroner’s Office is expected to conduct an autopsy. The coroner’s office will also release the name of the victim.

Tony Abbott, one of Kuhn’s friends who spoke to The Chronicle Wednesday, said Kuhn is an active member of the Washington National Guard and lives in the Lacey area. “I found out that he was missing on Monday afternoon,” Abbott said. “His roommate and I started freaking out.” Abbott said Kuhn served in Iraq in 2008 with the National Guard and after his deployment he moved from Michigan, where his mother lives, to Washington. Kuhn worked as a cook in the Army and Abbott said Kuhn has plans to attend cooking school in Seattle.

If the body is identified as that of Kuhn, it would be the first death in the 34-year history of the Pe Ell River Run.

 

Searchers find man's body in Chehalis River days after Daniel Kuhn went missing

Isabelle Zehnder

On Tuesday the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office in Chehalis issued a news release that an Olympia man had gone missing after participating in the Pe Ell River Run; on Friday they issued a news release that a body was found in the Chehalis River near where the man went missing. Daniel Kuhn, 24, an Iraq war veteran, was rafting with several others Saturday and was last seen in a small rubber raft in the Chehalis River near Elk Creek Road Bridge at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Officials have not positively identified the body, but Lewis County Sheriff's Commander Steve Aust said it matches Daniel's description, The Chronicle said.

Daniel had fallen behind the rest of his group and had indicated he would meet them downriver near the Chandler Road Bridge. When he didn’t show up they though he may have left with other friends and didn’t realize he was missing until Monday afternoon, at which time he was reported missing. On Thursday, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office issued an update to indicate that at approximately 3 p.m. Thursday, the Chehalis Fire Department’s Swift Water Rescue Team completed their search of approximately a three mile stretch of the Chehalis River looking for Daniel. They searched from the Elk Creek Road Bridge, where Daniel was last seen, downstream to the Chandler Road Bridge. Despite a very thorough search no sign of Daniel was found.

At about the same time the Swift Water Rescue Team was finishing their search a Doty resident called to report he had found a raft, matching the description of the one Daniel owned, on Sunday near the Chandler Road Bridge. Deputies were working to determine if it was the same raft Daniel was using on Saturday. On Friday morning Lewis County Sheriff’s Office issued another update stating that at 6 p.m. Thursday, deputies from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office responded back to a stretch of the Chehalis River where a search was scheduled to be conducted by the dive team on Sunday. The deputies were there to survey that portion of the river in order to prepare for the difficult conditions of the dive. 

The deputies, who are both certified in swift water rescue, were wading approximately 450 yards above the Rails to Trails Trestle when they came upon an object submerged in about five feet of water. They determined it to be a body of an adult male and began the difficult task of bringing him to shore in the swift water and varying depths, the update says. It took them about twenty-five minutes but they were eventually able to bring the body to the shore. The body has been turned over to the Lewis County Coroner who will conduct an autopsy and determine the subject’s identity.

Olympia man missing after Pe Ell River Run

Isabelle Zehnder

Lewis County Sheriff's Office in Chehalis issued a press release Tuesday that an Olympia man has been reported missing after participating in the Pe Ell River Run. Deputies from The Lewis County Sheriff's Office received a report that the man was missing at approximately 4:25 p.m. Monday. Daniel Kuhn, 24, was rafting with several other people. He was last seen in a small rubber raft in the Chehalis River near the Elk Creek Road Bridge around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 14. He fell behind the rest of his group and indicated he would meet them downriver near the Chandler Road Bridge.

When he did not arrive by 8 p.m. Saturday, the rest of his group departed. They thought he may have left with other friends and did not realize he was missing until Monday afternoon when they made the report. The news release states that searchers from the Chehalis Fire Department's Swift Water Rescue Team are navigating a three-mile stretch of the river with kayaks Tuesday in an attempt to locate any sign of Daniel.

 

Lewis County Chronicle:

A Doty-area resident has apparently found the raft belonging to the Olympia man who went missing during Saturday’s Pe Ell River Run, but a swift-water rescue team search has uncovered no sign of Daniel Kuhn. Kuhn’s truck was still parked at a Chehalis-area gas station on Tuesday afternoon with an unused towel folded on the front seat.

The Chehalis Fire Department’s swift water rescue team finished floating the portion of the Chehalis River between Elk Creek Road and the Chandler Road Bridge Tuesday afternoon at around the same time a Doty resident reported that he found a raft on Sunday that matched the description of Kuhn’s raft. “We are pretty sure it is his raft,” Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Commander Steve Aust said. “Now we are getting a plan together to search the river again.”

Another search is tentatively planned for Sunday morning, and Aust said divers will join the kayaking rescue team.The Chehalis Fire Department’s swift water rescue team searched a three-mile stretch of river Tuesday in kayaks for clues.

The Doty resident said he found the raft near Chandler Road Bridge.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said they believe alcohol played a factor in his disappearance. The group Kuhn was with told officers he had been drinking. The amount is unknown. It is legal to drink alcohol while floating down the river, the sheriff’s office said, but the Pe Ell River Run is known to have participants consume high levels of alcohol.

Aust said the sheriff’s office is looking into a larger presence at the river run next year. Kuhn’s blue 1988 Chevy pickup truck was still parked at the Hillcrest Food Mart parking lot off Highway 603 Tuesday, and his family is planning to move the vehicle from the lot, Aust said.

According to the Lewis County Sheriff's Office:

On Monday, at about 4:25 p.m., Lewis County deputies received a report of a missing person who was last seen participating in the Pe Ell River Run on Saturday.

The deputies learned Kuhn, 24, was rafting with several other people, and was last seen in a small rubber raft in the Chehalis River near the Elk Creek Road Bridge around 4:30 p.m.

He fell behind the rest of his group and said he would meet them downriver near the Chandler Road Bridge. When he did not arrive by 8 p.m. Saturday, the rest of his group left. They thought he may have left with other friends and did not realize he was missing until Monday afternoon when they made the report.

The Pe Ell River Run is an annual event held on the second Saturday of April. Participants navigate the river from Pe Ell to Doty using various means of flotation devices.