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Middle Fork Smith - Fatality

Reported by Aida Parkinson

There was a kayaking fatality on the Upper Middle Fork of the Smith, below Idlewild, on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 28, 2002.   The victim swam out of a hole and was entangled in willow brush.   A local boater who helped with the body recovery yesterday morning said the victim was entangled in a belt-mounted rescue rope.

The victim is from Grants Pass, Oregon, and was in his early forties.   He'd been boating for several years.

This is what I heard from the guy who helped with the recovery.

Three guys ran the North Fork at 18 feet (high water) on Saturday afternoon.   They put in around 12:30 or 1 pm.   It took an hour and a half to do the 14 miles.   Then they decided that they would run a section of the Upper Middle Fork, which was not excessively high but is a fast class 3+, with a few class IV sections, and lots of brush lining the sides in many sections.   California Creekin' has a description of the run.   They probably put in around 2 or 2:30 pm, which would be a generous estimate of their starting time.   Below one of the class IV sections, but not in the class IV section, the victim went into a hole and swam out.   He was last seen swimming.   Someone who happened to be watching from the road said the victim was swimming down the river and then suddenly submerged.   He was found with his head and arms below the surface, with the rescue rope wrapped around him, and a couple loops around a small piece of willow.

I think the guy who helped with the recovery will write up something more detailed based on what he was told by the other two boaters.   This is the first known whitewater fatality on the Smith, according to local boaters who have run it for twenty years, and who doubt that there were too many people who ran it before they started.

Aida Parkinson