A Boise man died Thursday after rapids swept him off his raft less than a mile downstream from Milner Dam on the Snake River.
Bob Clayton, owner of Gem State Paging in Boise, died after his double pontoon raft capsized on a nearly impassable section of the river northeast of Murtaugh.
Kayakers have paddled the Class V whitewater stretch from the dam to the Milner power plant, known as the Milner Bypass, but Clayton and another Boise man, Don Wilcox, wanted to be the first rafters to make the run.
Wilcox went first and made it through on his “cataraft,” but the rapids overpowered Clayton’s craft.
With friends, search-and-rescue officials and a KMVT-TV camera crew looking on, Clayton was tossed from his raft into the raging waters. Someone threw him a lifeline from shore, but he could not hold on.
Swept along by the river, he disappeared in a rapid called “Just Say No,” where a river-wide ledge creates a recirculating “hole” that can violently tumble objects for minutes.
Clayton’s limp body resurfaced, kept afloat by a life vest. But steep canyon walls and the swift water made rescue impossible.
Miles downstream, friends finally pulled Clayton unconscious from the river. Rescuers administered CPR for more than an hour, but he could not be revived.
Sheriff’s officials said Clayton and Wilcox were experienced rafters who knew what they were getting into.
“They had all their i’s dotted and their t’s crossed. They had all the safety gear and still …,” Sheriff Wayne Tousley said, his voice trailing.
Brian Dyas, one of Clayton’s friends, videotaped the accident.
“We all knew it was dangerous, so we were just taking it real careful.”