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389 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Release date: November 24, 2004

A sixty two year old male from Phoenix, Arizona died while rafting through Hance Rapid on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, Tuesday, November 23, 2004, when the raft he was in flipped over. Two others in the raft were able to swim to shore.

The group of 10 individuals left from Lees Ferry on Thursday, November 18th, and were traveling on a 41,000 cubic feet per second high water release from Glen Canyon Dam at the time of the accident.

The body was recovered by the group below Hance Rapid. Artificial resuscitation was attempted without success.

At approximately 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, Grand Canyon National Park Dispatch received a call from Air Traffic Control located in Los Angeles, California, of a possible fatality at River Mile 78 on the Colorado River. Information had been received at the Center through a ground-to-air transmission. Park rangers responded by helicopter but could not land anywhere near the reporting party because of the terrain. Rangers were able to encourage the group to proceed 11 miles down river to Phantom Ranch where National Park Search and Rescue crews were waiting.
The body was flown by a National Park Service helicopter from Phantom Ranch to the South Rim this morning, and then transported to the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office in Flagstaff, Arizona. An investigation is being conducted by the National Park Service.
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142 Posts
:( That's a bummer. I was real curious as to whether people were allowed to run the canyon during the flood. Evidently yes.

389 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
More info:

Don't know how accurate it is but it
does give some insight into the incident. Sounds like some folks way
over their heads.

"We got a call last night from Tom Barry saying Canyon
REO was looking for boatmen to hike to Phantom Ranch today and help
bring out 4 of their boats. A trip of 10 people, mostly firemen from
Phoenix, had been rafting the Canyon at high water this week. One of
the boats flipped in Hance Monday and a person died. The rest of the
rafters decided to abandon the trip.
I took Dan to Flag this morning to meet with the 7 other people going
down. Two of the guys going back down were supposed to be on the
original trip but had hiked in to run the second half. They didn't
hear of the tragedy until they got down there and the boats pulled in
with the body. They spent 2 nights down there with the trip members
before they hiked out yesterday. The other trip members were flown
out by helicopter. Now those 2 guys are going back in to run the
boats out. We talked to them today and they told us what the trip
members told them. It's second hand and maybe not totally accurate
but it's as best as I can remember them telling it.

The rafter who died was a man in his early 60's and was a person down
on his luck, maybe homeless, who was befriended by 2 brothers last
year. The brothers talked him into going on this trip. (They're
really feeling bad now because they had to really cajole him into it.)
The water was running so swiftly they came upon Hance before they
knew it. Donny Dove had warned them to run far left. The first 3
boats did but the last boat didn't make it far enough and went over a
large rock. From what I understand, this rock is usually highly
exposed but, because of the high flows, the water was running over it.
The boat went over the rock, was held behind it a while, then
flipped. Because of recent storms, there was a lot of water coming in
from the LCR and side canyons, besides the high release from the dam.
The water was incredibly silty and heavy. Because of that, the
swimmers had a hard time staying afloat. There were 2 others on the
boat beside the guy who died. The boatman was experienced and both he
and the other passenger were big strong guys. One was able to reach
the older guy and hang onto him from behind for a while but another
large turbulence separated them. They estimated they were in the
water about 7 minutes. The water was so cold, they pretty much lost
all use of their limbs during that time. By the time a boat reached
the older guy, he was face down. They did CPR but it didn't work.
They said he had so much silt in his lungs, they couldn't get any
oxygen to him. Everyone was incredibly shaken. They were in a gorge
and the flipped boat had gone down river. They were all too shaken to
keep going so they wrapped the body in a tarp, tied the boats
together, wedged an oar in a crevice of a wall, and spent the night
there. The boats were rocking and they were afraid they were going to
dislodge and float down river any time. Plus, it was raining. I know
the Park Service was called right away but I'm not sure if they came
that evening or the next morning. But they couldn't land the
helicopter there. They kept telling the group to go downstream but
half the group was too terrified to go on and face more rapids. (I'm
not sure if that happened that evening or the next morning). However,
the next day they decided they had to keep going and they found the
rapids below to be every bit as bad as they had imagined. A science
boat motored back up to them and took the body. They found the
flipped boat 9 miles downstream (which, I think, was probably pretty
close to Phantom). They arrived at Phantom at about 5:30pm Tuesday and
spent 2 nights down there before being helicoptered out yesterday.
The Park Service had them deflate the boats so they could bring a big
rig down and motor the boats and gear out. Then they realized there
was too much stuff so Donny sent a crew down to reinflate the boats
and bring everything out. The coroner said the cause of death was
drowning, not a heart attack.
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