Accident Database

Report ID# 96794

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • High Water
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

Date of incident: 05/02/2020 at 1 pm- 

River name: Lochsa River, ID; Upper Section (White Pine to Ninemile) 

River level: 6.5ft on Lowell Bridge gauge or 11,400cfs (moderately high flows) 

Victim: Unidentified Man, 40 

Injury type: Flush drowning, Fatal 

Number of people in the party - 2 

Type and number of watercraft: One, newer 12-13ft raft with center frame. 

Private or commercial trip Private 

Experience: Beginner 

Knowledge of river segment Ran Lochsa once before at 3ft and Clark Fork near Missoula “a couple” of times. Presence of proper safety equipment: PFDs, drysuits, helmets, and footwear all present, but inadequate layering under drysuits. 

Contributing factors: Cold water, high water, inadequate layering, lack of experience relative to difficulty of river segment and flow, one boat trip. 

Summary: On May 2nd, 2020 a fatal incident involving an unidentified male of approximately 40 years of age occurred on the upper section of the Lochsa River in Idaho County, Idaho. The victim launched with one other male in a 12-13ft raft from White Pine at a substantial flow of 6.5ft on the Lowell Bridge gauge as a solo boat move. The victim was riding in the front of the raft being rowed by the other man using a center mount frame. Both men were wearing PFDs, drysuits, and helmets. A group of paddlers reported helping reunite the victim (in the raft) and his partner (on shore) upstream of the accident site following an apparent swim. They noted the victim appeared exhausted, and offered to help the men exit the river to no avail before continuing on with their trip. 

Sometime before 1pm PT, the raft capsized in or near Lone Pine Rapid, and the party of two became separated and the victim was washed downstream through Holly and then Castle Creek Rapid, the section’s most difficult and consequential set of features. The victim was extricated by a group of boaters from another downstream party(s). After transferring the victim onto shore at the Ninemile River Access, first responders initiated and maintained CPR until EMS arrived approximately an hour later. CPR was unsuccessful. 

The following should be considered as potential contributing factors: A single boat trip on a high-water continuous run reduces the chances of rescuing a swimmer. The rower had only run the Lochsa and this section once before at a flow of ~3ft. The difficulty and consequence of this section is substantially increased at 6.5ft as the rapids tend to run into one another and eddy lines are well defined and extremely hard to catch for any swimmer. The victim was only wearing a very thin “long John like” layer under his drysuit, and although air temps reached into the 70’s that day, the water temps on the Lochsa hover in the 40’s during spring runoff, therefore the risks of hypothermia and cold water shock may have been significant factors.  

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