Accident Database

Report ID# 45100

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  • Flush Drowning
  • Impact/Trauma
  • Head Injury / Concussion
  • High Water

Accident Description

From Theresa Grider - On January 19, 2019, a group of 10-11 paddlers launched at Tucker Bridge to run a section of the Hood that is normally considered to be a fast class III. The night before the water level was ~800 cfs but by morning the flow had more than doubled. The water spiked midmorning to over six feet on the gauge which most locals agree makes the run more class IV in character. The newspapers incorrectly reported that he died on a class II section of rapids.

The group was minimally coordinated by two staff members from a local outfitter. they offer GOAP (Get Out And Paddle) trips on 3 weekends out of each month during rainy season. They do a class II run one week, class III the next, and the last one each month is the class IV GOAP. They are quite popular and well attended as their staff are strong paddlers and know most of the runs of the region. These are not guided trips and  is up to the individuals to decide which runs to do or not do.

The water level had risen all morning and peaked at 6.5 on the foot gauge (over 2600cfs) in midmorning just before the group launched. When the group was launching the foot gauge read 6.4 and the launch beach was under water. Access issues had complicated the put-in because parking is limited and drivers were shuttling cars to another location to park. There was no pre-trip group conversation or safety talk. People on the trip did not know who was with them and who was not.

The victim was a 28 year old male named Kevin Neidorf who was known for his enthusiasm, smarts, humor and athleticism. He was a Florida native and an avid cyclist and videographer. He worked at Rose City Cycles as creative director. Kevin took up whitewater paddling in 2018 and bought his first drysuit in November 2018, He had taken some paddling courses.

The rapid where the incident occurred is perhaps a mile downstream from the launch and it is the steepest and most intense section of whitewater on the run. We call it the Dam Rapid though the Old Copper Dam has been removed and there are no signs of it having been there, even at low water. At the flow they had the entrance is difficult, with the water sweeping around a long bend to the right. The current pours into the rapid on the left, and that is where Kevin went into the rapid. There are several large pourovers on the left side of the rapid which is why most paddlers work hard to get to the right to enter, and move farther right in the course of the rapid.

At the time when Kevin entered the rapid on the left, a strong paddler well behind him began to give chase. Kevin was not seen again until he was out of his boat and flushing downstream. It was not possible to know if he was conscious at that point or not but he was not swimming. He was low in the water and his paddling attire was dark colored making it hard to track him. Later in the chase it became apparent that he was face down. The trip coordinators from Next were downstream from the rapid and were able to get Kevin to shore on river right, using a kayak and a SUP. Another participant swam and getting her and her boat to shore took some time.

The group was scattered. The trip coordinators initiated CPR and sent a participant to call 911. No one in the group had a cell phone so he ran to a neighbor who knew what to tell EMS and they arrived within 10 minutes of the call. The ambulance was able to approach the site via an access road on river left, and Kevin was transported to river left using a sup on ropes with paddler support.  When EMS personnel took over CPR the victim’s color improved. EMS worked on him for 25-30 minutes before transporting. Witnesses say that Kevin had a wound between his eyebrows and liquid coming from his eyes. He was transported to Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, then transferred to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland where he died later that day.

The fellow who had been running point/lead for the whole group (not a coordinator) was in a playboat and chased Kevin's boat alone several miles downstream and finally got it to shore.  It did not have air bags in it when recovered.  The rest of the group ended their trip there below the dam rapid.  A group of locals repeated the same run in the following days at gauge readings of 5.25 and 4.6 to see if they could spot entrapment hazards in the Dam rapid.  They found nothing.

Kevin was a downhill mountain bike racer, accustomed to speed and risks, but relatively new to whitewater paddling.  He had just purchased his first drysuit in the fall of 2018. Factors that contributed to this fatality include a head injury, high continuous cold water and inexperience.

 

RIVER CITY BICYCLES WRITEUP

All of us at River City Bicycles are reeling from the unexpected loss of our close friend and esteemed coworker Kevin Neidorf. On Saturday, January 19th Kevin was whitewater kayaking on the Hood River with a group from the local outdoor community when his kayak rolled over in a Class II rapid. He was equipped with a helmet, personal floatation device, and drysuit.

His river partners reacted immediately, initiating a rescue as soon as the trailing kayaker saw Kevin roll. Kevin exited his kayak while underwater but was caught in a hydraulic hole and recirculated by the backflow of the water at least once. By the time his team reached him just moments later, Kevin had already taken in a lot of water and was unresponsive. The other kayakers worked together to get him to the shore, and by their account had him on land within three to four minutes of the initial roll.

Continuing to act with admirable poise under pressure, his partners performed CPR and called 911. He was rushed to the local hospital and then transferred to Legacy Emanuel in Portland where staff continued to provide resuscitating care. Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, he had taken in too much water and his body succumbed a number of hours later at the hospital. Kevin was twenty-eight years old.

As we endure this hardship together as a community and as the tightly-knit family that is RCB, we strive to focus on the energy, the passion, the bravery, and the love with which Kevin lived his life.

We all know Kevin as an artist; he worked out of our Belmont shop as River City’s creative director, putting out many imaginative and often hilarious advertisements, video projects, photo features, and much of the other media content our brand has produced over the past few years.

We know Kevin as an athlete. He was an impressive rock climber and skilled mountain biker who was always the first to hit the big jumps, one of the fastest riders both uphill and down, a rider committed to pushing the edge of how hard he could ride. He pushed us all to do one more lap, one more rep, one more challenge, because he knew we all have more in us than we sometimes think.

We know Kevin as an adventurer. From his initial cross-country move out to Portland from the East Coast, to solo bike trips across New Zealand and Europe, Kevin always wanted to see what was around the bend and what kind of trouble he could get into once he got there.

Ultimately, we cherish the times we spent with Kevin, and we can take solace in the fact that Kevin built the life he wanted to live, and lived it to the fullest. We miss him immensely, and his loss is a wound that will take a long time to heal. Thank you to everyone who makes this community of ours the amazing social space that it is, and thank you for understanding the challenges we face as we move forward.

Thanks for all the good times, Kevin. We love you.

Hayes Kenny

Everything he did was with gusto’: Friends, family remember kayaker who died on Hood River

 

Kevin Neidorf couldn’t stop moving, and he never stopped caring.

If the South Florida native wasn’t at work as the creative director at River City Bicycles in Portland, he was on one of his bikes, or rock-climbing or diving into his latest hobby -- kayaking.

“Everything he did was with gusto,” his mother, Paula Ginsberg-Neidorf, said in an interview. “He pushed people to do things they thought they couldn’t do themselves.”

The 28-year-old drowned Jan. 19 on the Hood River in a kayaking accident. He died on a section of Class II rapids that were running high on the river just south of the city of Hood River. He was wearing a dry suit, helmet and a personal lifejacket, but according to the bike shop’s account of the tragedy, he rolled his boat in a rapid and was pulled under and caught in a hydraulic hole. Neidorf was participating in a paddle event hosted through the Portland retailer Next Adventure that day. Fellow kayakers were unable to revive him.

According to the Hood River County Sheriff’s office, emergency personnel from three nearby agencies responded to the area near the old Copper Dam, but Neidorf never recovered. He died at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland.

Ginsberg-Neidorf said her son had taken kayaking courses during the past year or so, and she trusted he was responsible. She knew her only child loved sports with inherent risks. “If you’re sitting on the couch watching TV, there’s not much risk,” she said. 

He was an incredibly strong and experienced athlete, Ginsberg-Neidorf said, and she’d worried for years every time her family’s landline phone rang that it would carry bad news. Law enforcement officers called her cellphone instead.

“We’re looking for consolation,” she said. “What do we do now?”

Neidorf’s death sparked an outpouring of grief from friends around the world. An experienced mountain biker, he competed in the Megavalanche, an annual downhill race in the French Alps. His Plantation, Florida, memorial drew a longtime friend from the Czech Republic.

The family posted a livestream of the ceremony. Some 15 River City employees set up a projector and watched together. Other friends watched online from Germany, South Africa, Singapore, Portland and beyond.

“I didn’t even realize the extraordinary impact he had on others,” Ginsberg-Neidorf said.

Ginsberg-Neidorf and Scott Neidorf, Kevin’s dad, wore River City Bicycles sweatshirts at the ceremony.

Friends and colleagues at the Portland cycling institution, where he’d worked since 2015, expressed devastation at his death. Hayes Kenny, general manager of the Belmont location, wrote an emotional blog post. “We strive to focus on the energy, the passion, the bravery, and the love with which Kevin lived his life,” he said, and he described Neidorf as an artist, athlete, adventurer and a close friend. 

Neidorf grew up in a northern suburb of Miami on the edge of the Everglades. According to his parents, Kevin never took to organized sports – but he quickly became obsessed with bikes. The family of three spent a lot of time crisscrossing the country visiting national parks when Kevin was young.

He made lifelong friends at a camp in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains as a sixth-grader. He fell in love with mountain bikes, and by his senior year he’d built his own bike out of bamboo and rode it to and from school. Kevin taught himself how to shoot and edit video and pictures. He created videos for his high school, for friends, for teachers.

“He was always involved in something,” his mother said.

From high school and on into his days at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he rode on the school’s cycling club team, he was hooked. Before settling in Portland, he moved to Columbia, South Carolina, to work for bike retailer Hawley, where he worked in digital video production. He took a three-month European bike tour and also traveled through New Zealand on two wheels as well.

In Portland, Neidorf fit seamlessly in to a tight-knit bike community. Vince Rodarte and Neidorf sat back-to-back at work for years in an office away from the store’s sales floor.

Rodarte, a 43-year-old old father of three kids, said he felt instantly drawn to Neidorf.

They shared a similar sense of humor and creativity. “You could tell there was more to him,” he said. Neidorf connected with people everywhere.

Last summer, the friends worked together as guides at a mountain biking camp in Oakridge in Lane County. They’d sneak in rides after work, or on weekends.“Just knowing him was inspiration enough to try to do more for myself,” Rodarte said.

A few years back, Neidorf took unpaid time from the bike store to shoot a documentary of the Hazelnut Grove homeless community in North Portland. He moved there for the week during the winter.

Ginsberg-Neidorf said her son was always looking to do more – to see and connect more with people. Despite having a full-time job, he’d recently applied – and been accepted – to an unpaid position with Mercy Corps Northwest as a marketing and communications intern. He was to write profiles of small businesses, two or three times a month. He was supposed to start last Tuesday.

At the funeral, his friends and family told stories of a spontaneous soul who was wicked smart. His dad, Scott, recalled a recent trip to Portland and the best day he’d ever had with his son. Kevin had arranged the entire day. They rode a tandem bike down a mountain. They ate Portland food and drank beer.

“He was a man, and he did his life his way,” Scott Neidorf said at the funeral, choking back tears. “And he did what he wanted when he wanted to do it. He lived more in 28 years than I probably will live in 128 years, but I’m going to make an attempt,” he said, “and be a little more like this boy of mine.”

-- Andrew Theen

 

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