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Accident Description


The Bruneau River is a popular Class III-IV overnighter through the remote high desert of Southern Idaho. Kathleen Anderson, the chief legal officer for Esprit Corporation in San Francisco, was paddling the river with a female friend. Both were competent Class IV boaters who had recently practiced their skills for several days at a kayak school. Water levels were at 1200 cfs, considered near optimal.

The accident occurred at Five-Mile Rapid, a long Class III, on May 1, 1998. Her friend led the drop and eddied out below. Anderson was out of sight when she flipped. When she did not appear at the bottom, her friend, a professional firefighter and very competent, hiked up and found her floating unconscious in an eddy. She pulled Kathleen into shore and began CPR. These efforts, though vigorous, were unsuccessful.

SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle; Keith Miller, Pete Sturges, Anthony Kahn

COMMENTS: It is not clear what happened to cause this tragedy, and attempts to contact her friend were not successful.

 

3 Following is a sort article in the local paper:

"Owyhee County sheriff's deputies on Saturday recovered the body of a California woman who drowned in a remote stretch of southwestern Idaho's Bruneau river.

Kathleen Callahan Anderson, 44, died while whitewater kayaking on Friday, Sheriff Gary Aman said. "A Utah woman who was with Anderson made her way to town late Friday night and reported the accident that killed her companion, who was from Orinda. Aman said he hired a river outfitter to help his deputies in the recovery effort. With mules carrying packboards, they hiked to a spot along the high desert canyon above the river, which the sheriff said is running extremely high and fast this time of year." Again, not a lot of info. One could assume that the accident occurred in five mile rapid, 1/2 way down the main Bruneau. The flow was in the 1,100-1,200 range on Friday. The river is fast and technical at that flow with most of the rocks exposed and coming at you quickly. Most boaters consider 2,600-3,000 cfs as entering the "extremely high" flow for the Bruneau.

Following is a sort article in the local paper: A few more details, this time from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Esprit's Top Lawyer Killed In River Rafting Accident

by Glen Martin, Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, May 4, 1998

Friends and colleagues of Kathleen Callahan Anderson, head legal counsel for Esprit de Corp., were shocked yesterday to learn that the experienced kayaker drowned Friday in an accident on a remote Idaho river. Anderson, 44, of Orinda, died when she apparently was unable to right her capsized kayak on a rapid on Idaho's Bruneau River.

Keith Miller, a friend of Anderson's and the owner of California Canoe and Kayak, a chain of whitewater equipment stores in the Bay Area and Sacramento Valley, was stunned when he heard about her death. ``My God, I can't believe it,'' Miller said. ``She was a good boater, a competent boater. This is awful.'' The Bruneau is a high-desert river in southwestern Idaho renowned among river-runners for its remoteness, austere beauty and steep-walled gorges. Anderson was kayaking the river with a friend, Barbara Schuster, of Utah.

The mishap apparently occurred as Schuster led the way down a rapid. She waited for Anderson at the bottom. When Anderson didn't appear, Schuster got out of her boat and hiked up the bank next to the rapid and spotted Anderson's body in an eddy. An attempt by Schuster at cardiopulmonary resuscitation was unsuccessful. She then hiked out of the rugged river canyon and contacted authorities. Anderson's body was retrieved late Saturday by a local outfitter.

Anderson's death is apparently the first fatality of the western river-running season. Concerns over whitewater mishaps have grown in the past two years because kayaking death statistics have climbed abruptly. The concern is particularly acute this year in California because the huge snowpack left by El Nino assures a long and tempestuous whitewater season. Anderson was an experienced kayaker who had travelled the world in search of whitewater adventure. She also regularly ran rivers in the Rocky Mountain states, as well as the Pacific Northwest and the California Sierra.

As the head legal counsel and vice president of administration for Esprit, the trendy San Francisco clothing firm, Anderson also was widely known in the north state's legal and fashion spheres. She received her law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. John Ordona, a spokesman for Esprit, said Anderson was his friend and mentor. ``She worked here 10 years, and she'll be very deeply missed,'' he said. ``She was an avid kayaker, and an avid outdoorsperson in general. She was one of the head organizers of the Esprit ski team.''

The Bruneau River offers runs of varying difficulty. ``Some of it is pretty tough,'' said Bev White, a spokeswoman for the Owyhee County, Idaho, Sheriff's Department. ``It's also really remote -- it's hard to get in and out of there.'' Anderson and Schuster had opted to run a 25-mile stretch of the river characterized by Class 3 rapids. Whitewater is rated on a scale of class 1 to class 6, class 1 consisting of small riffles and class 6 generally viewed as ``unrunnable.'' Class 3 rapids are considered suitable for intermediate boaters.

Peter Sturges, a close friend of Anderson's and the owner of Otter Bar Lodge, a wilderness resort and kayak school on the Salmon River in northwestern California, said he considers Anderson's death a fluke because she was a cautious boater who did not overestimate her abilities. ``She took a three-day tune-up class from us just before she left for Idaho, and she was looking good,'' he said.

Also, said Sturges, the section Anderson and Schuster chose to run wasn't particularly difficult. ``They had decided not to do another run on a nearby tributary because the water was too high,'' Sturges said. ``She wasn't reckless. Before she left, she called for the flow information on the Bruneau, and it turned out it was optimum."

The Bruneau River is a popular Class III-IV overnighter through the remote high desert of Southern Idaho. On May 1 Kathleen Anderson, the top lawyer for Esprit Corporation in San Francisco, was paddling the river with a female friend. Both were competent class IV boaters. Trouble struck at class III Five Mile Rapid. Her friend led the drop and eddied out below. Anderson was out of sight when she flipped,. When she did not appear at the bottom, her friend, a professional firefighter, hiked up and found her floating in an eddy. She pulled Kathleen in and began CPR. These efforts, though vigorous, were unsuccessful.