UNION CREEK -- Rescuers from several agencies responded to a fatal rafting accident on the Rogue River on Saturday, August 15. Brayden Riley Biggs, 4, of Grants Pass, died after his family’s raft capsized in the Takelma Gorge. Brayden, just two weeks from his fifth birthday, was on a rafting trip with his parents and extended family.
The party of 12, divided among three rafts, started downriver from Woodruff Bridge campground at about 3pm. All of the rafters were wearing personal flotation devices. The first raft, carrying Brayden and five others, capsized when it entered the Takelma Gorge. This stretch of the Rogue River is steep and rocky with swift rapids (class III and IV). Kayakers located Brayden, unresponsive, about 200 yards downstream from where the raft capsized. CPR was performed for over an hour.
The area where the raft capsized is remote and rugged. There is no cell phone service and the closest facilities are miles away. A man hiking in the area heard cries for help from the rafters. He ran 2 ½ miles back to his vehicle and drove to the Prospect Ranger Station to call 911. At 4:17pm, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office marine patrol deputies were dispatched to the area. Personnel from Jackson County Fire Districts 3 and 4, Medford Interagency Fire, and US Forest Service law enforcement also responded. A helicopter contracted by the USFS located the rafters and navigated ground personnel to the scene. After hiking into the area, rescuers recovered the rafters and hiked out together. The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office responded to the scene. The exact cause of the child’s death is not yet available.
Kayakers Speak out on Tekelma Gorge Rescue
By Megan Allison/KTVL.com
A group of Kayakers found the Biggs family stranded in the Tekelma Gorge Saturday. They were camping in Mill Creek near Prospect that evening when a sheriff approached them with the news of a stranded family.
Doug Gardner was camping with the group. He said only experienced kayakers could have reached the rafters in the gorge.
"If they're trapped in the gorge, which is the only place where they would be trapped in there where they couldn't get out. Number one, we're already there. And two, search and rescue can't get into a place like that very easily," he said.
A group of five kayakers headed down the river towards the gorge. They found the family and were told other relatives were further downstream. Jared Sandeen was the first to find those who were up ahead.
"The grandparents of the kids and a three year old were on the bank clung to the wall because, I mean, you're in a gorge, it's steep. So I stopped and asked them if they were ok, and they said yeah and there's two more downstream," he said.
Sandeen went in search for Brayden Biggs, going over the next rapid and a ledge. He came across a hole that kayakers often get stuck in. "I pull in there just thinking it's a life jacket and I grab it...yeah, and it's a four-year-old," he said.
Sandeen performed CPR on Brayden for 30 to 45 minutes. The other kayakers helped the rest of the family to safety before relieving him. Once medics arrived, the kayakers hiked back to the road where they met up with the rest of the family. "It was good to see that no one else was harmed. Because it's not a simple place. It's the woods. It's dangerous," Sandeen said.
Gardner said after talking with the family, it was clear that they did not know what they were getting into. "There's no way they knew what they were doing. They never would have gone in there if they had known that was there," he said.
Both kayakers say while they're both glad they could help, they say this is something they'll most likely think about for the rest of their lives.