July 3, 1995 in City

Two Die In West Side Rafting Accident

From Staff And Wire Reports

Two men from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station died Saturday on a rafting trip down the Nooksack River after their raft overturned and they were trapped under a log.

Both men died at the scene and their bodies were taken to the Navy station. Their names were not released.

Eighteen people in a group of Navy personnel, family members and friends were riding in three rafts Saturday when they approached a log obstructing the river about a half mile north of the town of Glacier.

The first raft floated past the log, said Deputy Scott Rossmiller of the Whatcom County sheriff’s office, but the second raft was carried by the swift current into the log, where it rolled over and dumped eight people into the water.

Two men were pinned under the log. One was held underwater for at least 10 minutes, the other for longer, said rescuer Jim Millson. People on the third raft climbed out and helped those in the water.

The rafters eventually pulled one man free of the log. The other man was freed when the log began moving and he was swept to a sandbar, said Rossmiller. He said all the rafters were wearing wet suits, life jackets and helmets and their guides were experienced.

“Rafting is a high-risk activity - floating in white water down a river,” said Kevin Kennedy of the U.S. Forest Service. “This incident was no fault of the guides or the people on it, it was a freak occurrence.”

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