Accident Database

Report ID# 461

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Accident Description

On April 27, 1997 a guided raft flipped above a strainer on the Class II-III Toutle River in Western Washington State.  Water levels were quite high from recent rains. An excellent video from a Seattle TV station (which they got from the raft company via the local sheriff’s office) shows how it happened. The raft drifted sideways through a Class II lead-in, then broached on a large rock just upstream of a pile of logs 10-20 feet high. The crew high-sided effectively, then the back end wrapped. When the stern dipped, the guide and two guests washed out. The guests then tried to free the boat themselves, but in moving around they lost the high-side. The upstream tube is sucked under as the raft pivoted free, throwing everyone in the water Corina Sofranko, 28, second from the front on the upstream side, was probably pushed quite deep. Seven others, including her fiancée, made it to safety, although several were also washed under the logjam. Ms. Sofranco was still missing at the time of this report and is presumed dead.  

A rescue hovercraft, a poor choice for use in swift water, was sent out to search or her.  These boats ride on a cushion of air, which is easily broken up by turbulence or debris. The hovercraft flipped, but the four occupants were unharmed.  

SOURCE: Bruce Wilkinson and Roger Boutell, posting to rec.boats.paddle; TV video  

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) The Toutle drains Mt. St. Helens, and the riverbed looks like it’s pretty unstable. Unstable riverbeds tend to collect wood. This was a nasty spot that could have been avoided. The other rafts on the trip ran much farther to the right. The raft that flipped was pointed right, which suggests that the guide was trying to go there. There was a lot of water going into this rock/strainer combination on river left, and once a raft gets over there, I suspect even experts will have their hands full.

 

On April 27, a guided raft hit a rock on the Class II-III Toutle River in Western Washington State. Water levels were very high from recent rain. The upstream tube was sucked under, overturning the raft and spilling all 8 occupants. Seven made it to safety, although several of the survivors were washed under a logjam. Corina Sofranko, 28 was still missing at the time of this report and is presumed dead. A rescue hovercraft, a poor choice for use in swift water, was sent out to search or her. The hovercraft flipped, but the four occupants were unharmed.

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