Accident Database

Report ID# 437

  • Flush Drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • Cold Water
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

In early July, 1996 a group of five South Koreans who had been climbing on Mt. McKinley decided to raft Alaska’s Talkeetna River. This is a fly-in river containing big Class IV rapids, with large waves capable of knocking paddlers into the river. The group was using a 14’ raft, and towing an inflatable kayak. While the Talkeetna is not the coldest river in Alaska, it is very cold by the standards of the "Lower 48”. The group broached their raft on a rock and flipped. The four men in the party were wearing wet suits or drysuits; the lone woman had neither. The men swam to shore and saw the woman floating downstream, hanging on to their boat. They searched for several hours, then started a fire to keep warm. They flagged a passing airplane, who in turn radioed a helicopter to pick them up. Her body was recovered seven miles downstream, lodged in a strainer.

SOURCE: Danny Crow, an Alaskan, posting to

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) This is not the first foreign party to underestimate the effects of Alaska 's icy rivers. Full cold weather gear and a party size of two boats should be considered minimum. If either had been available, the victim might have survived.

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