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Rafter Loses Life In Payette River

Sat., Aug. 9, 1997

A Meridian man has drowned on a stretch of the main Payette River popular with whitewater novices because of its gentle rapids.

A proper life jacket might have saved the life of 35-year-old Douglas Balls, who died Wednesday.

Three other rafters survived the river accident without serious injury.

River guide Tom Long of Cascade Rafting Co., said the rafters’ lack of experience and the inadequate bright orange “horse collar” life jackets contributed to the danger.

“The rafters didn’t know the river,” said Long, who responded to the scene. “But one piece of equipment would have saved this person’s life: a life jacket. Not a rubber ducky, not water wings, not a pool toy, a real life jacket.”

The rapid changed because of last winter’s floods. Balls, girlfriend Gayle Raymond and two friends overturned. The others made it to shore, but Balls drowned after his life jacket came off and he was pulled under.

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