Accident Database

Report ID# 56

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

On September 4, 1988 a group of 8 rafters were attempting a "top to bottom" run of the North Fork of the Payette.  This Class V run was running at 1600 cfs, a moderate flow. Seven of the men had been running the river for several days in 16' catarafts. The eighth, Tim Houlahan, was using a self-bailing, oar-rigged raft.  He had only been on the North Fork once before, at a lower level.

The group put in at Smith's Ferry and ran several miles down to Jacob's Ladder,  the first  of the big Class V's. Houlahan hit a big hole and was thrown from his raft . Attempts were made to rescue him using lines thrown from shore and from the catarafts, but Tim did not grab hold of one. Finbally he was picked up by the lead cataraft, who attempted rescusitation in the middle of a Class IV rapid. After getting him to shore CPR began in earnest. He was transferred to an ambulance and life-flighted to Boise, where he died that evening.

SOURCE: Paul Semmler, Breckenridge, CO

The seven catarafters had trained hard to run the Payette for months. Mr. Houlahan clearly was not in their league. The North Fork of the Payette is clearly no place for a swimmer.

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