Accident Database

Report ID# 4001

  • Swim into Rock or Sieve
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

British kayaker Beth Hume presumed dead in first descent in north-east India

By Supriya Vohra

Nov 12, 2015

According to sources, Beth Hume went missing during the first descent of Umngi river in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya in north-east India on 5th November 2015. Despite the ongoing search and rescue operation, there is still no trace of her.

British kayaker Beth Hume is presumed dead after she went missing during the descent of Umngi river near village Kenbah, Phlangwanbroi, Mawsynram in East Khasi Hills in Meghalaya in north-east India.The kayaker was leading a British-Norwegian expedition of six people, all of whom were attempting the first descent of the Umngi river.

According to a Facebook post by Beth Morgan (one of the team members), the incident took place three days into the trip. “On 5th November, 3 days into the trip, the river entered a bedrock canyon made of incredible sculptured pink bedrock which contrasted beautifully with the deep greens of the jungle on either side. The cloudless sky brought out the turquoise shades of the clear post monsoon waters. After portaging the first drop we drifted through the next pool taking in the views and Beth, with an enormous grin on her face, declared that it was a magical place.

The next drop we came to was where the incident took place. Ever enthusiastic, Beth was first out of the boat to inspect the drop and her happy whoops echoing up the gorge let us know that it was going to be a good one. Scouting revealed a simple enough drop but with the complication of a headwall and cave on river right and a slight undercut river left. The river was flat downstream. Safety was set, and Beth went up for the first run. Her line was spot on, but she unluckily got caught up in the turbulent tow back of water at the base of the fall. After rolling up a few times she realized it was unlikely she would be able to paddle out and exited her kayak. Her kayak and paddles were pushed into a stable eddy on the river right, however Beth did not reappear.

Significant attempts were made to rescue Beth. After speculatively throwing ropes into the base of the drop and behind the curtain of water from the fall, we very quickly used ropes to send someone swimming into the pool on the far side of the drop to check she wasn’t stuck in her upturned kayak. This person was then swung into the cave identified on the far side of the river to check this and scanned the base of overhanging cliff to make sure there was nothing that couldn’t be seen from the top,” Ms. Morgan wrote in the post.

Ms. Morgan further wrote that after 2-3 hours of searching, when they still could not find her, SOS messages were sent to Zorba, a local kayaker from Meghalaya.

The next morning, Zorba arrived with his team, bringing teams from Meghalaya’s Fire and Emergency Service and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), who set up a rope system and the team were in the spray taking shifts searching for Beth around the base of the falls. “Having exhausted all our options, we began to accept that we were not going to be able to get Beth back,” she wrote.“Our whole team camped by the river that evening, watching shooting stars and talking of past adventures with Beth.

It was with heavy hearts that we said our goodbyes and left the river the next morning, leaving further rescue attempts to the NDRF (National Disaster Response Force).” Mr. M Kharkrang, Superintendent of Police (SP), East Khasi Hills told The Outdoor Journal that search and rescue operations have been on since 5th November, but there has been no sign of her. “We received the news of the incident sometime in the afternoon of 5th November. We have been sending teams from the state’s State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and a team of ten from Meghalaya’s Fire and Emergency Service department. We are trying our best.”

Ms. Hume’s team members and friends organized a memorial service in Shillong on Sunday evening at Zorba’s family home. Attended by international kayakers and local people alike, everyone joined together to pray for Beth and her family and friends.

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