Outdoors blog

Whitewater rivers claim two more drowning victims

RIVER RUNNING -- Two more deaths have been confirmed among whitewater river runners in the Inland Northwest, making 2011 one of the deadliest rafting and kayak seasons in memory.

  • In Montana, a woman in her 60s was killed in a rafting accident on the swollen Blackfoot River near Missoula on Tuesday.
  • In Washington, the body of a Kittitas River kayaker missing since Monday evening was found by authorities Tuesday afternoon.

AMONG THE OTHER recent drowning or major injury incidents:

Read on for details from the Associated Press about the latest two confirmed deaths.

BLACKFOOT RIVER

Missoula County Sheriff’s Detective Jason Johnson says the woman, whose name has not been released, fell into the river when the raft she was in hit a rapid near the Paws Up resort at about 1:30 p.m. Witnesses saw the woman a short time later floating face down in the river. She was pronounced dead at a Missoula hospital.

The woman’s grown daughter, who also was knocked out of the boat, was able to swim to safety. All six people on the raft were wearing life vests.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the Blackfoot in the area was running almost five times its normal flow Tuesday.

KITTITAS RIVER

The Swift-Water Rescue Team from the the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office recovered the body of Lyvben Gankova, 47, after a KIRO 7 news helicopter spotted it from the air near the head of Lake Cle Elum.

Gankova’s body was found 21/2 miles downriver from where he was last seen.

Gankova, from Renton, went missing Monday evening when he and a friend attempted to float in an inflatable kayak from the Cooper River Bridge near Cle Elum, about 15 miles north of Roslyn where they were camping.

The kayak capsized within a short distance. The friend looked back once and saw Gankova clinging to part of a tree in the water, but when he turned back again, Gankova was nowhere to be seen.

The friend had a life jacket and was able to make it to shore. Gankova was not wearing a life jacket, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

The friend contacted the Cle Elum Forest Service, which searched for Gankova until nightfall Monday. The Swift-Water Rescue Team arrived Tuesday morning to continue looking.

Sometime after the KIRO 7 helicopter spotted the body, team members launched a 12-foot inflatable jet boat near the French Cabin Creek Bridge and recovered it from the bottom of a 7-foot pool, according to the release.

Officials said that due to high mountain snow melt, the river is running fast and very cold. The area downriver from the incident has many log jams and sweepers and is dangerous even for properly equipped and experienced people.




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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