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Monday, March 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Wisconsin man dies rafting Lochsa River

Hauser man drowned last week on guided trip on Owyhee

A Wisconsin man drowned while rafting with friends Saturday on the Lochsa River.

It was the second rafting fatality in the region this spring, following the death of a Hauser man last week on the Owyhee River in Oregon.

In the Lochsa incident, Randy A. Eroen, 35, of Sun Prairie, Wis., drowned after his raft hit a rapid and all four occupants fell out. Two were able to get back in, a third made it to shore, but Eroen was swept downriver, a news release from the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office said. The sheriff’s office received the call at 1:41 p.m.

Eroen was unable to reach the life rope thrown to him by two kayakers accompanying the group, the release said. The kayakers went after Eroen, pulled him from the river and started CPR. They were joined by the rest of their private rafting party, who continued CPR until medical assistance arrived.

“The water is high, it’s dangerous,” said Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings. “People know, but they just don’t believe. It happens every year.”

On May 23, Robert Desmarais, 65, of Hauser, died on the Owyhee River in southeastern Oregon while on a guided rafting trip.

Desmarais was in a two-person inflatable kayak with another person when the vessel flipped in a rapid called Upset, said Undersheriff Brian Wolfe of Malheur County. The water level was between 4,000 and 5,000 cubic feet per second, which Wolfe said is not considered high water.

Both passengers were wearing life jackets, but Desmarais was trapped underwater in a river hydraulic for 15 minutes, Wolfe said. When he surfaced, the group immediately retrieved him and began CPR but couldn’t revive him, Wolfe said.

“They acted quickly, they got on a satellite phone, called for help,” Wolfe said. “Usually on a river when we lose somebody, it’s because of not having a flotation device on.”

In this case, however, Wolfe said, “We didn’t see where anybody was really at fault. They were outfitted with a good outfitter. Sad as it is, it’s just one of those things that happen.”

The outfitter was ROW Adventures of Coeur d’Alene. This is the first death in the company’s 32-year history, said Brad Moss, a spokesman.

Wolfe said someone dies while rafting in Malheur County “probably every other year.”

In addition, a Yakima woman, Mary Patricia Plochowietz, 68, went missing May 16 after her drift boat capsized on the Smith River near Great Falls, the Yakima Herald reported.

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