Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rafter dies in Snake River rapid

High spring flows filled Class IV rapid

Express Staff Writer

A rafter from Idaho Falls died on the Murtaugh section of the Snake River on Sunday afternoon after his raft became stuck in a hole.

According to the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office, Dirk Gombert was in a raft with three other people when the party tried to run a hole just upstream from Let's Make a Deal rapid. The abrupt ledge hole is on the left side of the river in a rapid called Hooker, and is avoided by most boaters.

The sheriff's office reported that emergency dispatch received a call at about 2:30 p.m. Gombert was picked up by a helicopter that was able to land at the site, but was pronounced dead at St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center at about 4 p.m.

Boaters at the scene reported that they had been performing CPR on Gombert, who was wearing a drysuit, for about half an hour before the helicopter arrived. The raft was still recirculating in the hole at the time the helicopter left. According to a story in the Twin Falls Times-News, the raft floated free about three hours later.

Sheriff's office spokeswoman Lori Nebeker said other members of Gombert's party reported that they had all been thrown from the raft at various times after it hit the hole, but were able to climb back in. After one was again thrown out and managed to swim to shore, the others attempted the same. However, Gombert was found floating unconscious. Nebeker said the rafters reported that they didn't know what had happened to him. No official cause of death was available by press time Tuesday.

The Murtaugh section is a popular class IV run upstream from Twin Falls. Due to water releases from reservoirs, it was flowing at about 17,000 cubic feet per second, a high flow, on Sunday.

Greg Moore:

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