MetroNews staff photo
Middle Keeney Rapid on New River where teenager was swept from raft.

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — A foreign exchange student from Germany became the first whitewater rafting fatality of 2013 in West Virginia. National Park Service officials did not identify the 16-year-old youth, pending notification of relatives.

“He was on a commercial trip and went out of the raft in middle Keeney and got washed into an area known as ‘meat grinder,’” said Chief River Ranger Jeff West. “They just weren’t able to get him out of there quick enough.”

The teen was part of an Ohio group rafting with Adventures West Virginia Resort. Officials said it was the first time in the resort’s history they lost a juvenile on a rafting trip. The victim was among eight bilingual students from Germany in a raft with a veteran and highly experienced guide, according to resort officials.

“It’s a group of exchange students between Germany and Ohio,” said Dave Arnold, managing member of the resort. “This group has come with us many, many times. Our company and employees are deeply saddened by this accident”

The investigation was continuing, West said.

“Immediately all of the guides on the trip pulled over and began working to get the young man out. They did get him out fairly quickly and started CPR on him, but weren’t able to bring him back,” West said.

“I don’t see any wrongdoing here at all. Whitewater rafting is an adventure sport and to be an adventure sport there’s an element of risk. Sometimes Mother Nature just doesn’t forgive us.”

“We are grateful for the quick and professional response of the National Park Service and local support rescue services who aided in the rescue attempt,” said Arnold. “Everyone who helped with the rescue and recovery efforts and is working with the students has been professional and supportive during this difficult time.”

According to Arnold, the river was at 5.5 feet at the Fayette Station gauge at the time of the drowning. Though West said the level was unusually high for mid-August after heavy summer rains, he emphasized the water level was not considered unsafe for rafting.