Accident Database

Report ID# 491

  • Flush Drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

On June 17 Robert Wheat, 44, drowned when his raft flipped on the South Fork of the American in Meatgrinder Rapid. A heavy man, 300+ pounds, he was boating in a one-boat trip without a wetsuit. This rapid is nasty at a high level. It’s over a mile long, filled with huge waves and holes. Their boat apparently got off-line and flipped after going over a ledge. Rescue, which must have been very difficult, was made by professional guides running trips in the area. His body was finally located two miles downstream

Lee and Charlie, The 6/17 victim from the South Fork was Robert Irving Wheat, age 48. He was on a private rafting trip. Although a news article (which I am mailing to Lee) stated he had a wet suit, Robin and Bill Center of Camp Lotus on the South Fork tell me that he did not. His body was recovered by the sheriff's dept. rescue team near Triple Threat rapid. Regards, Richard

From: (Rob Gendreau)

Newsgroups: Subject:

Re: Death on the SF of the American

I talked to several people along the river today and a raft guide with WET. He said several of their guides were involved in the recovery. The following is compiled from the people I talked to. The male victim was a private boater. He went out of a flipped raft at meatgrinder which he was guiding. He was heavy (300lbs), wearing a type III PFD and NO wetsuit. His body was spotted just above Triple Threat a bit less than 2 miles downstream.

California, which has experienced both a heavy snowpack and a cool spring, is in for a prolonged period of extremely high water. Already eleven rafting fatalities have been reported; two involved a mother and child on an air mattress, but the rest are for real!

Three occurred within a few days of each other on the South Fork of the American near Lotus, California. A popular Class III+ summer run at 1200-1600 cfs, at 6,000-8,000 cfs the river becomes very continuous and turbulent. At this point it should be considered heavy class IV-IV+. Most of this information was reported by AW Director and Friends of the River conservationist Richard Penny.


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