Accident Database

Report ID# 834

  • Flush Drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • Cold Water
  • Inadequate Equipment
  • High Water

Accident Description

High water was too much for a couple of kayakers on the Shenandoah River near Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. According to an article in Splashes, the newsletter of the West Virginia Wildwater Association, the level that day was 9.4 feet, or 22,000 cfs. This made the river extremely wide and fast. Two students with kayaks rented from a university outdoor program put in at Millville. Both men had taken a short introductory course at the college which included no whitewater training. They had helmets and PFD’s, but no wetsuits.

The pair didn’t make it very far before they flipped and swam. One man let go of his boat and returned quickly to shore. Josh Reichert, 22, held onto his boat and was carried some distance downstream. It’s not known how long he was conscious, but the Shenandoah Staircase at that level is a long Class IV rapid with huge waves and holes.

Rob Traynham, who was involved with the aerial search, told AW’s Tim Bromelkamp that the victim worked at a summer camp which took campers on rafting trips down the Shenandoah. This experience clearly did not prepare him for the river at high flows. His body was spotted several days later in a logjam near the confluence with the Potomac River.

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