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One dead, two injured after guided white water raft capsizes on Spokane River at Bowl and Pitcher

UPDATED: Tue., July 3, 2018

Emergency responders wait at the scene where one person is reported to have died and two others injured when a guided-tour raft overturned on the Spokane River near the Bowl and Pitcher area of Riverside State Park on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. (Rebecca White / The Spokesman-Review)
Emergency responders wait at the scene where one person is reported to have died and two others injured when a guided-tour raft overturned on the Spokane River near the Bowl and Pitcher area of Riverside State Park on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. (Rebecca White / The Spokesman-Review)
By Jonathan Glover and Rebecca White The Spokesman-Review

One person died and two were injured when a guided-tour raft overturned Tuesday afternoon on the Spokane River near the Bowl and Pitcher area of Riverside State Park.

Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said the rafting trip was a family event that included adults and teenagers split between two boats. When one raft overturned about 1 p.m., some of the passengers were able to swim to safety and some were assisted by bystanders, he said.

Kyle Murphy, 26, a park visitor who witnessed the raft capsize, said a rafting guide instructed him to check on two people who had been swept downriver in the current. He ran about three-fourths of a mile down the riverbank, where he saw a person climbing up the rocks and a woman floating near the center of the river. He swam out and pulled her to the bank, where another park visitor, Derek Garcia, began CPR and Garcia’s girlfriend, Kelsey Groff, called 911.

Emergency responders arrived, but were unable to resuscitate the woman, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Two others who were injured when the raft capsized were transported to MultiCare Deaconess Hospital with minor to moderate injuries, Schaeffer said.

Schaeffer said the people on the rafts came from out of town to meet for a family outing. He said they took the necessary safety precautions, such as wearing cold-water gear and life jackets and using certified boats.

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“Everything I’ve been able to see so far, this family and the company that does the service, they did everything right,” Schaeffer said.

Schaeffer said the natural obstructions that make the river beautiful are also extremely dangerous. He urged those considering water sports over the Fourth of July holiday to consider the inherent risks that areas like the Bowl and Pitcher can pose to watercraft.

The company that operates the rafting service, Superior, Montana-based Pangaea River Rafting, offers tours in Washington, Idaho and Montana, according to its website. One of the services it offers in Spokane is a two-hour white water trip on the Spokane River, which is advertised as a “beginner” skill-level course for ages 6 and up.

David Lawrence, owner of the company, said Tuesday afternoon he couldn’t comment until he arrives on scene, but said the guests are the company’s first responsibility.

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