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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gonzaga agrees to $400,000 settlement in student’s kayaking death

Gonzaga University paid $400,000 to the family of Christopher Gormley, a freshman who died on a kayak trip organized by the university.

The settlement adds to the $550,000 paid to Gormley’s estate by the city of Spokane, which was approved by the City Council this week.

Gonzaga would not comment directly on the settlement, which was agreed to in April.

“Our prayers continue to be with Christopher, his family and all those affected by this tragedy. In order to preserve individuals’ privacy, and out of utmost respect for all parties involved, Gonzaga will not discuss the details of this litigation,” the university said in a statement.

Gormley, 18, was one of seven people on a kayak trip to Rock Lake in Whitman County on April 1, 2012. The trip was organized by Gonzaga Outdoors, which contracted with the city’s parks department to provide equipment and a guide for the trip.

About 30 minutes after launch, three men, including Gormley, capsized in single-seat kayaks in rough, wind-whipped water. The two other kayakers who tipped, including city employee Brandon LeBaron, eventually made it to shore. Rescuers found Gormley in the water wearing a life jacket about a mile north of a boat launch along Rock Lake Road. Gormley was taken to the hospital but died from hypothermia.

Leroy Eadie, the city’s parks director, said Spokane did a “self-evaluation” after Gormley’s death. Guides are certified by the American Canoe Association, and the city’s outdoors program is more focused on entry-level activities.

Rock Lake is no longer a destination for kayak courses.

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

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 onstage in a 2012 Gonzaga production of “The Three Musketeers.”

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