Accident Database

Report ID# 3928

  • PFD Fell Off
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

           A group of four rafters who had apparently planned an easy class II float launched too far upstream on Washington's Sultan River. The river was running at 1400 cfs on April 25th a medium flow typical for that time of year. The group had life vests but no helmets or cold water protection. Their raft flipped in "Last Nasty", a powerful Class IV rapid. All initially made it ashore but the raft was caught midstream. Then Travis Albin, 38, returned to the river in an attempt to retrieve the raft. He disappeared from view and was held under the raft for some time. He may have been entangled in some badly-placed ropes attached to his raft. He was last seen floating downstream, face down, without a PFD.

            A short time later experienced kayakers who were continuing downstream after paddling the reach above the powerhouse on a scheduled release, found the three survivors  battered and hypothermic. They said they were missing a member of their group and needed help. Their raft was stuck, drifting in the center of the river, held in place by a line caught on the river bottom. The kayakers cut the line to release the raft and helped move the survivors to safety. Other kayakers found Mr. Albin washed up on a rock some distance downstream and pulled his body ashore.

The victims name is Travis Albin. From the account I got from one of the victims at the scene, he was on shore, reentered the water, and swam under the raft in an attempt to free it. It is unclear what happened at this time. I was told he was under the raft for some time, then his PFD and t-shirt floated free eventually followed by his body.
The timeframe of this is unknown at this time, and the surviving victims were so disoriented at the time I question if they will be able to accurately recall what happened. I surmise he got entrapped on one of two potential hazards in the raft. The stuck stern line, or a spiderweb of rope that was laced in and around the cockpit of the raft. His PFD was not in place and was not found on the river. Travis was found in only his pants and sneakers.
An email exchange found on line suggested that the group put in at the wrong place, and they intended to float the class II reach from Trout Farm Road (he calls it Trout Lake) to Sportsmen Park (the Sultan boat launch that fishermen use).
Jed Hawkes

Man dies in rafting accident on the Sultan River

A 38-year-old man was killed while rafting with three others A 38-year-old man was killed while rafting with three others on the Sultan River north of Sultan on Saturday.

By Noah Haglund and Ian Terry, Everett, WA Herald

SULTAN — A man died in a rafting accident on the Sultan River on Saturday afternoon. He was one of four people in a raft that overturned on some rapids downstream from the Culmback Dam, Sultan Fire Chief Merlin Halverson said. His body was recovered near 125th Street SE, off of Trout Farm Road in Sultan. “There were four of them in the raft,” Halverson said. “They didn’t make the rapids. They were all thrown into the water. Three of them were recovered by kayakers.”

Authorities were notified shortly after 4 p.m. The man who died was believed to be in his late 30s, Halverson said. The river was busy that day because of whitewater conditions created by the Snohomish County PUD temporarily opening a valve at the base of the dam. The planned release put a higher-than-normal amount of water into the river, peaking over a three-hour period between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. By late last week, more than 100 people had registered with the PUD for the event.

Most of the people on the river Saturday were kayakers. One of them was Jordy Searle, 27, a professional kayaker from New Zealand who happened upon the accident. Searle and the three other kayakers with him had just come around a bend in the river and were navigating the rapids. “We noticed an upturned raft in the middle of the river,” he said. “Just downstream, there were two people from the raft waving at us distraughtly.” The kayakers learned that two rafters were OK, but that two more were missing, he said. They found a third rafter a short distance downstream, on a rock. They told the survivors to stay put as they continued downstream to search for the missing man.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465,

Date: 4/25/15, Saturday 
River: Sultan 
Section: Lower; Powerhouse to Fishing Access 
Location: Below “last nasty” 
Gauge: Sultan River Blw Powerplant 
Water Level: 1,450 CFS (medium) 
Difficulty: Class IV+ 
Accident code: 
Injury code: Fatal 
Age: Unknown (mid to late 30’s) 
Years paddling: Unknown 
Private/commercial: Private 
Boat Type: Paddle Raft 
Boat Manufacturer: Hyside 14’ 
Boat Model: 
Number of occupants: 4 
Number in group: 4 
Number of victims: 1 

Around 3:30 PM our group of 5 kayakers (Adam G, Jon S, Jon C, Mike H, Jed H)ran the rapid known as Last Nasty. I was the last individual in our group to complete the rapid and when I eddied out on River Right I discovered two individuals standing at river level, who immediately told me “we need help”(we will call them victim 1 and victim 2). They were wearing cotton clothes, ill-fitting PFD’s and generally looking unprepared for a river trip. At this point they informed me that there were 4 people in their group but only 3 were accounted for and the missing party was last seen floating downstream without a PFD face down in the river and their raft was gone. A previous group of kayakers (Sam, Jordy, Mike, and Ben) had encountered the group and when they were told there was still a missing victim they took chase to determine if the 4th victim was on shore or in the river still. 

I initially told them that the best thing to do would be to hike out to the road because they were wet and cold and they need to get out of the river bed. At this point I guessed they had been on shore for about an hour. Considering their situation and the information I had in hand this appeared to be the best option. 

After moving back downstream about 100 feet I discovered that the raft was still in the river upside down with the stern line chocked to the bottom of the river. At this point I eddied out on the right where we found the third victim sitting on a rock near the shore on river right; she was in shock, very cold, and not communicative but luckily sitting in the sun. 

At this point I changed our plan and three of us (Mike H, Jon C, and myself) paddled to river left and recovered the raft. One member (Mike H) climbed on top of the raft from his kayak and attached a throw bag to the raft, he then cut the webbing that was chocked to the bottom of the river freeing the raft and Jon C and Myself pendulumed the raft to river left. At this point other groups were coming downstream who assisted with recovering the raft and heading downstream to communicate our situation to Search and rescue. We used breakdown kayak paddles to paddle the boat to river right. 

At this point myself and another member of our group (Jon S) hiked about 200 feet upstream to where Victim 1 and 2 were still at river level where I had previously made contact with them, this took us about 5 minutes. When I spoke to them I learned that the group of 4 had initially all made it to shore but the 4th had reentered the water in an attempt to recover the raft. At this point he went under the raft and after some time his t-shirt washed out followed by his PFD and sometime later he floated out face down and out of sight. 

From this point we slowly worked our way back downstream, traversing the steep, loose and uneven terrain back to the raft. I would scout a line, clear brush and cut steps, then return to the group and lead them to another stable spot and start the process over again. It took us about an hour to traverse back to the raft. Jon S and I worked in tandem to pick lines through the thick brush and steep slopes as well as assist pulling, pushing , and motivating the pair to continue forward. During this Mike P’s group stayed in their kayaks directly below us in the event that any of us slipped or tumbled down the slope into the river. 

Once back at the raft the other members of the group had tied my kayak to the raft and had recovered two of the raft paddles. We loaded the two female victims onto the center compartment and the male victim into the front with a member of our group (Adam G). I was guiding while the member (Adam G) in our group and the male victim paddled. It took us about 15 minutes to navigate the last few rapids down to the take out at the fishing access on river left off of Trout Farm Road. 

At the Fishing access the Sheriff’s department and paramedic unit were waiting with an ambulance. At this point the 4th member was still unaccounted for. After making my statement and giving my information to the Sheriff’s deputy we continued downstream in an attempt to recover Victim 4. 

About a ¼ mile from the fishing access we came across another group who had discovered the 4th victim stuck on a rock left of center in the river. At this point they pulled his body to river left and walked to a house to call emergency care to recover the body. I stayed with the deceased with Mike H and Jon S until Monroe EMS arrived and recovered the deceased. 

This group had an unknown amount of experience, was wearing cotton clothes, ill-fitting PFD’s, and no helmets.

Jed Hawkes


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