It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Scott Bradfield of Lexington, KY on the Big East Fork of the Pigeon on 7/4/13. He was one of 7 paddlers who put in on the river yesterday morning. We ran through Triple and stopped to scout the next class V when the river flashed. 2 of our crew had already run the rapid with success and had safety set at the bottom. Scott and another member dropped in and Scott flipped; after several roll attempts he swam. Our safety team hit him with a throwbag but he made no effort to grab it; one paddler then chased him downstream through the next rapid, but given the very high water levels, he was forced to cease the rescue attempt.
We spent the next 4 hours sweeping the river along the entire length of the trail as well as from river level from the sight of last seen to the campground downstream on river right. The water was too high to safely continue searching from river level downstream from that point. Search and Rescue was notified and they immediately commenced recovery operations which continue today. We have thus far been unable to locate Scott. We found his boat but it could not be removed from the river safely; rescue crews have been unable to find it today. Several crew members are heading to the East Fork now to put in at the takeout bridge and paddle downstream in support of the search effort. We appreciate the paddling community's understanding, and your support of the Search and Rescue effort by following their instructions to stay off the river today while their work continues. Scott's family has been notified and we are working to contact his close friends.
CRUSO — Emergency responders recovered the body of a Kentucky man who drowned while kayaking in the storm-swollen rapids of the Big East Fork of the Pigeon River.
Authorities said 36-year-old Richard Scott Bradfield was last seen alive Thursday afternoon on a section of the river that runs through the Pisgah National Forest off U.S. 276 in Haywood County.
“The vessel capsized and he came up out of the water and was swept away,” said Chief Deputy Jeff Haynes of the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office. “This was a tragic incident, and our deepest sympathies go out to his family.”
The body was discovered near a riverbank in the Shining Rock Wilderness around 7:20 p.m. Friday. It was well after midnight during a heavy downpour when rescuers finally were able to get Bradfield out, Haynes said. “We had a very long walk in and out,” he said. “It was very rugged terrain.”
A swiftwater rescue team from Brevard and other personnel on the ground participated in the search and recovery. The victim was taken to MedWest-Haywood, where he was pronounced dead.
Bradfield, of Lexington, Ky., was in a group of seven kayakers from the same area when he fell into the water and was swept away. Haynes said Bradfield was not a novice kayaker, but the river was raging following heavy rainstorms that pounded the region.
“Due to the rainfall we’ve had over the last several days, the rapids were treacherous,” he said. “We ask that visitors and residents please be mindful of high water, and please exercise extreme caution when participating in wilderness activity during hazardous conditions.”
The group American Whitewater advises kayakers to avoid extremes of water and weather.
“Very high flows and cold temperatures pose special challenges to paddlers,” according to the organization’s website. “If you don't have the specialized gear and skills needed, wait until conditions improve.”