Gonzaga honor student killed in kayak accident

Gonzaga University officials today identified the victim of a kayaking accident as a first-year honor student from Everett.

Christopher J. Gormley, the son of Chris and Susan Gormley, died after being pulled from the icy water of Rock Lake in northwestern Whitman County on Sunday afternoon.

He was one of seven people on a Gonzaga outdoors program outing through the Spokane parks and recreation department.

Gormley was one of three participants who went into the water when wind-whipped waves caused their water craft to tip. The air temperature was 34 degrees, according to the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office.

Gormley was taken to a Spokane hospital for treatment of hypothermia, but did not survive, the sheriff’s office said on Sunday.

One of the other participants was hospitalized, but has since been released, GU officials said.

One kayaker paddled to shore to call for help. Rescuers found Gormley and another man in the water wearing life jackets about a mile north of a boat launch along Rock Lake Road, sheriff’s officials said.

Gormley was a graduate of Henry M. Jackson High School in Everett. He was an Eagle Scout and had celebrated his 18th birthday last Tuesday.

At Gonzaga, he had acquired enough credits to be a junior. He was a recipient of numerous scholarships, was in the Gonzaga Honors program and was a political science major. He was a member of the Residence Hall Block Council and he appeared this year on stage in a GU production of “The Three Musketeers.”

GU President Thayne M. McCulloh said in a news release that the university community was profoundly saddened to learn of the death.

In an e-mail letter addressed to “The Gonzaga Community,” McCulloh extended sympathies to the Gormley family along with students and staff. He wrote that “the entire Gonzaga community is with you at this time of sadness and loss.”

Spokane Mayor David Condon on behalf of the city also extended his sympathies to the family as well as friends. In a statement, Condon said, “My heart goes out to all who knew and loved this young man.”

City officials said GU’s outdoor program organized the trip and hired the parks department to provide transportation, equipment and one guide.

That guide, Brandon LeBaron, a seasonal city employee, reportedly went into the water trying to assist one of the participants who had already gone into the water, said city spokeswoman Marlene Feist. He ended up swimming to shore, she said.

A memorial mass is set for 12:10 p.m. Tuesday in the University Chapel with Rev. Timothy Clancy presiding along with Rev. Kevin Connell.

There are six comments on this story »



Contact the Spokesman

Main switchboard:
(509) 459-5000
Customer service:
(509) 747-4422
(509) 459-5400
(800) 789-0029
Back to Spokesman Mobile