Accident Database

Report ID# 4071

  • Health Problem
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

Boaters on the Snake River Should Know Their Own Skills and Abilities

JACKSON, Wyo., July 26, 2016 – A recent river related fatality on the Bridger-Teton National Forest in the Snake River Canyon has Forest officials urging river enthusiasts to know their own skills abilities and physical condition before venturing onto the Snake River.

There was a fatality on the Bridger-Teton National Forest in the Snake River Canyon after a boater had been ejected from his raft and was pulled back to safety by another party.  The incident occurred on Saturday, July 23, 2016 shortly after 2:00pm. The location where the victim ended up in the water was above a rapid known as Double Draw and it is about 1.75 miles downstream of West table boat ramp in the Snake River Canyon. Another party had just finished pulling their own swimmers from the rapid when they came into contact with the victim, Bourke Tarbet, age 45 of Syracuse, Utah, pulling him aboard well above Haircut Rock. 

Shortly after being pulled into the boat, the victim lost consciousness and vital signs. A passing professionally guided trip directed the party to a location called the Million Dollar Eddy which is located immediately after Haircut Rock rapid just over 2-miles from West Table Boat Ramp.  The rescuing party and professional guides began CPR, while utilizing the company’s radio to summon help to the scene.  Guides from another company expedited downstream to retrieve the nearest automatic external defibrillator (AED) that the Forest has strategically located along the stretch, and ran it back upstream to the shore where the Forest River Rangers, the rescuing party and others had initiated CPR.  They were quickly joined by two passing doctors, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, Alpine Fire Department and Star Valley Search and Rescue who made every effort possible to save the victim.

The river flow is abnormally low for this time of the season showing hazards that are not normally present in most seasons. In fact, with river flows running at around 4,280 CFS (cubic feet per second) the number of accidents the river crew has responded to with the lower water level is higher than other seasons at this time.

The Snake River Canyon and the whitewater stretch is an exhilarating experience. While it is considered a Class III river, it is not without inherent risks.  “We have had quite a few parties who’ve rented boats get into trouble.  Quite a few have been organized groups or Boy Scout groups from Utah and Idaho," said Wild & Scenic River Manager David Cernicek.  "There have been medical evacuations, people who’ve lost their boats and paddles, and people who just decided that their lives were important and abandoned their boats and gear to hike out, " said Cernicek when he was talking about the Incidents he has seen this summer.  "Lots of times folks feel like they can save a few bucks by not going with a professional outfitter, and sometimes those decisions cost the most," he said.  "On Saturday we also had a commercial river guide pull a 2 year-old child out of Lunch Counter Rapid that another party had chosen to bring down the river with them," said Cernicek.

Many incidents occur on the whitewater stretch of the Snake River that never make it to the River Rangers for a coordinated emergency response. That is because the expert outfitters and guides oftentimes are there to instruct novice boaters what to do, where to eddy out or, as in this incident, they quickly can identify where the life-saving equipment is located along the river. Cernicek continued, “We want people to enjoy the rafting opportunities on the Bridger-Teton, but there is a necessary component of personal responsibility that must be addressed. It is imperative that recreationists assess their skill level, physical health and agility and experience and determine which section of the river is most appropriate for their outing, or if they should be utilizing a professional outfitter."

For more information, visit the Forest Website at For additional information, contact the Bridger-Teton National Forest at (307) 739-5500.



Man dies after rescue from Snake River

Posted: Monday, July 25, 2016

By Mark Huffman Jackson Hole Daily

A man dumped into the Snake River in a boating accident Saturday afternoon was soon pulled from the water but then lost consciousness and died. “He came out of the river, he was alive,” Bridger-Teton National Forest River Manager Dave Cernicek said Sunday. People in the rescuing boat “stuck out a paddle and he actively participated in his own rescue, and they pulled him out.” Soon after, though, the man fell unconscious.

People in the boat administered CPR, and that was continued onshore. A defibrillator was used after some professional boatmen arrived. Cernicek said the death wasn’t a drowning and almost certainly not the result of trauma. That left some sort of “medical emergency,” he said, though he said that would have to be determined by the coroner from Lincoln County, where the incident occurred. The Lincoln County sheriff’s dispatcher confirmed that an “event” occurred on the river, but said no official statement from the county was expected until today. The name of the victim was not released.

Cernicek said the man, apparently in his 40s and not from the area, was in a rented raft with family when it overturned near Double D. The incident ended onshore near Haircut Rock, about fourth-tenths of a mile downstream. The river was “very busy,” Cernicek said, because it was Pioneer Weekend, a Utah celebration of Mormon immigration. Though the water on the Snake has fallen from its peak, Cernicek said there are plenty of tricky spots that can be dangerous for amateurs, which many river runners are. “A lot of folks come to the river with not a lot of experience,” he said. “It happens all the time.” Though the Snake from Hoback Junction to Alpine has seen plenty of misadventures this season, Cernicek said this was the first death. Contact Mark Huffman at 732-5907 or

Man was overweight with health problems. Alive and blinking when brought into boat. While Bourke had been in the water and as other rafters had held out a paddle and life vests and he had gone in and out of consciousness before they got him into a boat. Then he went completely unconscious.

What went right: Local whitewater outfitters all carry a radio on every trip. Some have AED’s. They radio their base who contacts my dispatch who informs the ranger crews, and SAR if obviously needed. Guides have higher levels of medical certifications as EMT, WFR, etc. The rule is to place any scene or person on the highway side of the river immediately or close to one of our evac trails

We were the first to have Automatic External Defibrillators (AED’) placed along the river (illegally), and first to deploy one successfully on a 16yo boy scout which let the cat out of the bag that we had them. Immediately after that AEDs were placed in all facilities on the forest. No one thought about disciplinary actions. Rangers and guides train at least once a year with SAR. I’ll get you more beta on the victim as soon as the sheriff send over the autopsy report.

Man dies on Snake River Saturday


On Saturday, 45-year-old Bourke Dewain Tarbet of Syracuse, Utah died during a rafting trip in the Snake River. The Bridger-Teton National Forest said that the incident happened during a 30-minute float downstream of west table boat ramp near a feature called Double Draw rapid.

According to reports, Tarbet came out of his boat near the Double Draw rapid, and private boaters pulled him into their boat.

Mary Cerincek, public affairs officer for the Bridger-Teton National Forest, stated that the boats then negotiated the river feature called "Haircut Rock," which immediately follows Double Draw rapid. She said they were then able to immediately eddy out into the "Million Dollar Eddy" and get him to shore.

"Our permitted outfitters knew immediately where the nearest automatic external difficult (AED) was located and they hopped in a boat, rowed to the AED, retrieved it, and ran it back upstream to the shore where the forest river Rangers and others had initiated CPR," said Cernicek.

According to Captain Brian Andrews of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, CPR was performed on the man for approximately 60 minutes before he was pronounced dead on the scene. Cernicek said that there were two doctors on scene and Lincoln County Sheriffs Department, Alpine Fire, and Star Valley Search and Rescue all helped with the response to this incident.

"The Snake River Canyon and the whitewater stretch is an exhilarating experience. While it is considered a Class II/ Class III river, it is not without inherent risks," said Cernicek. "Every boater should check the water levels before getting on the river. The river can be very different depending on how high or low the water is, creating new challenges every day. Getting the current river flows and making sure your skills and experience are ready for what the river has to offer for the day is necessary if you want to have a good trip."

The official cause of death has not yet been released.


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