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Man drowns rafting American River

Boat tipped over during whitewater training
By: Penne Usher Journal Correspondent
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A man in his mid 20s drowned late Monday afternoon in the South Fork of the American River during a whitewater rafting guide training. The victim, whose name is not being released pending notification of his family, appears to have gotten his leg entrapped and was unable to free himself. “What it looks like right now is a group of five to six was being guided down the upper portion of the South Fork and they hit Gunsight (rock) at Troublemaker (rapid),” said Lt. Bryan Golmitz of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. “The boat tipped over and the victim and others were thrown out.” The victim reportedly got lodged about 70 yards down river from the Class III-plus rapid near Coloma around 5 p.m. The force of the water delayed rescue efforts by the El Dorado County Swift Water Rescue Team. “There was just so much water coming down. We had to contact PG&E to slow the flow,” Golmitz said. The man’s body was recovered around 8:45 p.m. Monday. Noah Rucker-Triplett, river recreation supervisor for El Dorado County, said Troublemaker is a “significant” Class III-plus rapid, one of the biggest on the river next to Meat Grinder, however incidents of drowning are rare. “It’s very rare. We have 100,000 people go down every year and very few drowning,” Rucker-Triplett said. He pointed out that there is always a risk of danger when on or in moving water. “That’s the risk of being in the river. If your foot or arm gets stuck it’s a dangerous situation,” Rucker-Triplett said. “You try to keep your feet up and keep them from getting entangled.” Last year a man fell out of a raft in the same area and also had his leg stuck. Bystanders kept the man’s head above water until rescue workers could free him, officials said. No drownings were reported during the 2008 rafting season along the South Fork of the American River. “The percentages are really low. I’d still tell people to raft and enjoy the river,” Rucker-Triplett said.