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Man dies in paddling accident on Gros Ventre River

TETON COUNTY, Wyo. (KIFI) - Just before 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Teton County Search and Rescue responded to a paddling accident on the Gros Ventre River.

The emergency call reported a pair of two-person catarafts had launched onto the whitewater stretch below Lower Slide Lake, and one of the crafts had flipped near the rapid known as Hermit.

Officials say one person was able to climb back onto the craft, while the other continued downstream. The remaining members of the party attempted to chase their companion down the river but were unable to retrieve him.

TCSAR volunteers responded to the site with swiftwater teams on foot and in rafts, and deployed an aerial drone.

Grand Teton National Park dispatched a team of Jenny Lake Rangers and the interagency helicopter due to the accident site’s close proximity to the park boundary.

Teton County Sheriff deputies also responded as did many recreational river users who were already on scene.

The man was reportedly last seen near a large boulder about a quarter mile upriver from the park boundary at a sharp bend known as Jumping Rock.

Shortly after, a spotter at Jumping Rock saw the man floating, unresponsive, downriver.

The helicopter was able to follow the man as he floated downriver and eventually became hung up on a log jam about a mile downriver.

TCSAR volunteers managed to reach the man and bring him to shore.

Officials say he did not survive.

His party was visiting from out of state and had been well equipped, prepared and experienced.

According to officials, the man was wearing a PFD.

This three-mile stretch of whitewater in question is categorized as Class IV and is the most demanding, accessible whitewater stretch in Teton County.

On Tuesday, it was flowing above average at about 2,000 cfs, or 2.5 feet. The numerous rapids were formed by the Gros Ventre Slide from 1925 and ensuing flood, which created sharp, angular rocks that make any swim especially hazardous.

TCSAR extends its sincere condolences to the deceased man’s family and friends. The team is also grateful for the assistance from the numerous different agencies and boaters who helped in the response.

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