Accident Database

Report ID# 613

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

The Cascade River in Eastern Washington is one of the state’s more serious expert runs. Hard Class V rapids begin right at the put-in and it doesn’t let up. Eric Adler, 33, was a strong Class IV-V boater who had run the Cascade several times before. Two of the three other boaters who accompanied him on August 27, 1999 also had prior experience with the river. A report submitted by Nick N., one of his companions, described the accident as follows:

“Our group scouted “Starts With a Bang” and picked our lines. Eric ran the first drop on the right, then cut across to the left side to run the second drop. Here he missed his line and was pushed further left than planned, into a strong hole. He spent some time trying to get out, flipping repeatedly. At this point two of our group exited their boats and moved into position with throw bags.

“Just as these two got out, Eric exited his boat and was washed downstream. I was running the rapid on the far right and saw him swimming in front of me. As he swam for side eddies, I began chasing him. I came within three or four feet, but was stopped cold in a hole above Bridge Drop (another tough Class V) while he washed through it. I last saw him swimming for an eddy above Bridge Drop. I quickly eddied out and ran down the bank.

“I walked the entire length of Bridge Drop without spotting him. When I returned to the boat the other members of the party arrived and I informed them of the situation. We portaged Bridge Drop and continued looking for Eric, assisted by a group of catarafts. He was found just downstream of Bridge Drop. CPR was performed, but he had been in the water for almost an hour and we were unable to revive him.”

Later his body was removed from the river by helicopter.

SOURCE: Jock Bradley, Nick N. and J.P. Hargrave posting to


1. (Hargrave) Eric ran the standard route at the top and skirted the big hole halfway down. Before reaching the planned route on the far right he chose to punch a hole further to the left. Here he encountered the hole. He was unable to exit this hole because both ends were closed in by rocks.

2. (Hargrave & Bradley) There is no real pool between “Starts With A Bang” and “Bridge Drop”. Eric held onto his boat for a while, then let go and attempted to swim for an eddy. The water in between the two big drops contains stout pourovers and strong eddylines. Eric, a strong swimmer in good shape, was unable to get out before the next Class V. Bridge Drop is swimmable, but no one saw what happened to him. It’s possible he was worked in a hole or slammed against a rock, causing him to inhale water.

3. (Walbridge) With two people performing boat safety below the drop, hindsight suggests that it might have been more useful for one person to move upstream with a rope while the other remained in their boat. There’s no guarantee that this would have made a difference, however.


The following article appeared in Monday, August 23, 1999, Skagit Valley Herald newspaper:

MARBLEMOUNT - A Seattle man drowned while kayaking on the Cascade River in eastern Skagit County, according to the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office. Eric Adler, 33, of Seattle, was kayaking with friends on the Cascade River, which meets with the Skagit near Marblemount, when his friends lost track of him at about 2 p.m. Sunday. Adler’s body was found just minutes later by river rafters at Lookout Creek along the Cascade near Darrington, the Sheriff’s Office said. Skagit County Corner Bruce Bacon said Adler’s family has been notified. An autopsy was scheduled for today. (Eric swam and drowned in the Class V section of the Cascade.)

On August 27th Eric Adler, 33, died while attempting a run of Washington’s Cascade River with three friends A report submitted by J.P. Hargrave, one of his companions, describes the accident as follows: Adler attempted to run the first Class V drop, "Starts with a Bang", by starting right, then finishing left, He lost his line and dropped into a bad hole. After trying to work free for several minutes and after being flipped repeatedly, he wet exited and started to swim hard for shore. Two of his friends were out of their boat, and working their way upstream with throw bags when this happened. A third man attempted a boat rescue, but was stopped by a hole that Adler washed through. Adler was attempting to swim to shore when he was pushed downstream into Bridge Drop, another steep, obstructed Class V. Running this drop blind was not prudent, so his group got out of their boats and ran down along the shore. No one saw what happened, but he was found floating face-down an hour later by some catarafters at the bottom of the drop. CPR was performed without success. This is not the first flush-drowning to occur on the Cascade; we can only hope it will be the last.


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