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Accident Description


NNorth Alabama.

Drowning on Sipsey River in Bankhead Forest

HBTV Sunday, April 19, 2015

An outing on the Sipsey River Saturday afternoon ended tragically in one death and one injury. Around 2:30 p.m. one of the canoes in a group of vessels capsized while attempting to pass a downed tree approximately 1.5 miles south of the Sipsey Picnic Area, entrapping one of the passengers under the water, thus causing the death by drowning of Lori Turner, 54, of Huntsville. Turner was with a group of 9 people from the Huntsville and Decatur area in 4 canoes and 1 kayak who had planned on a pleasant trip down the Sipsey.

Because of recent rains, the river was up enough to make the trip from the Sipsey Picnic Area to Highway 33. The guide for the trip had made the run many times before, and as recent as two weeks before. A large tree had fallen across the river since the guide's last trip was partially submerged. Turner was in the middle seat of a three seat canoe which in the middle of the group. As an attempt was made to negotiate the fallen tree, the canoe became stuck, flipped, trapping her under the tree in the rapid moving water.

Barry Bearden, who was canoeing on the Sipsey at the time, transported a member of the Double Springs rescue squad, Jacob Taylor in Bearden's canoe from the picnic area to the location of the accident scene. Taylor reported the location by radio relaying the info through a Pebble fireman who was making his way to the scene by ground. As more rescuers arrived, the water receded enough to located and facilitate the recovery of Turner's body. Efforts to recover all members of the party was hampered by the inaccessibility of the site and darkness. Other than Turner, all members except one of the canoe party were taken to the Pebble Fire Department to get dry. One other injured lady who was in the canoe with Turner was taken to Lakeland Community Hospital where she remained overnight.

According to members of the group, Turner reportedly had a husband and five children. Assisting in the rescue operation were members of the Haleyville, Double Springs and Addison Rescue Squads and the Pebble and Ashridge Fire Departments. Other agencies on the scene included Sheriff Hobby Walker, a state conservation officer, Forest Ranger, and Alabama State Trooper. The Alabama State Trooper helicopter with infrared later assisted with communication.

INSTON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Officials have confirmed the death of a Huntsville woman at Bankhead National Forest. It happened Saturday afternoon as a group with canoes and a kayak traveled along the Sipsey River. Officials said recent rainfall made the waters harder to navigate. Around 2:30 p.m., a 3-person canoe hit a downed tree in the river. The canoe overturned, and a woman identified as Lori Turner, who was in the middle of the craft, became trapped underneath the canoe and the tree and died. The Pebble Fire Chief said the death was the result of drowning. Turner was wearing a life jacket at the time of the incident. Officials said that due to the remoteness of the location, the body and the distressed canoers were not rescued until 11 p.m. Saturday. An investigation into the incident is ongoing. Copyright 2015 WAFF. All rights reserved.