NPS Digest is reporting that a 45-year-old Virginia man died last Saturday while on a commercial rafting trip on the lower Gauley River in West Virginia.
Rangers and other emergency resources responded to a 911 call regarding an unresponsive passenger, with CPR in progress, on a remote and mostly inaccessible section of the Gauley River downstream from the Lower Mash Rapids. An aero-medical helicopter, ambulances, and a Norfolk Southern Railroad high-railer were ordered to assist with the evacuation. As rangers were hiking into the location they were advised that the helicopter had successfully evacuated the man but that he’d been pronounced dead. Rangers and state conservation officers conducted an investigation throughout the remainder of the day.
The man had been on a rafting trip with his brothers and friends, and had fallen out of his raft and into the river while going through Lower Mash Rapids. Passengers on another boat were able to pick him up and put him back into the boat. Soon after, the man experienced difficulty breathing and became unresponsive. CPR was administered by rafting company employees.
The pilot of the responding helicopter made an improvised landing on a roughly 24-square-foot rock near Diagonal Ledges Rapids and the crew continued EMS until the man was pronounced dead. The cause of death is pending autopsy results. At the time, the Gauley River was running approximately 5,500 cubic feet per second (cfs). Lower Mash is a Class IV rapid at 2,800 cfs.
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