JACKSON HOLE, WYO – A second person has now drowned in the Snake River this summer season. Christopher Chapman, 48, of Pocatello, Idaho was pronounced dead Saturday afternoon by Lincoln County medical personnel at Sheep Gulch takeout on the Snake River.
According to witnesses, Chapman was on the river with friends when their raft overturned at Three Oar-Deal. The river feature is a powerful hydraulic that can pin boats or passengers on the downriver side of a ‘pourover’ boulder.
Members of Chapman’s party alerted passing commercial rafting companies, including a Lewis & Clark boat. That guide called his office and the information was relayed to dispatch who launched emergency responders including Star Valley Search and Rescue, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Forest Service River Rangers, and Alpine ambulance. Lewis & Clark also retrieved the remaining members of the party.
As the Lewis & Clark raft traversed through Lunch Counter, witnesses along the riverbank yelled to the boat that a body had just floated by. It was Mad River that eventually located Chapman, floating in the Snake. They rowed the man to shore at Sheep Gulch where Lewis & Clark guides, Forest Service River Rangers, and then members of Search and Rescue, began CPR. An automated external defibrillator (AED) kept at the Sheep Gulch boat ramp was used on Chapman as well as a second AED device.
Chapman never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at the scene. He was wearing a PFD (personal flotation device).
David Cernicek, river manager for the Forest Service praised the efforts of several commercial operators and emergency personnel that responded. “Lewis & Clark and Mad River did an amazing job,” Cernicek said.
The rescue operation was made even more difficult when a concurrent incident was reported to dispatch. Forest Service River Rangers were also searching for a missing party from a flipped boat at Double-Draw Rapid as well. That person was eventually located.
Later in the day, another private party in rental equipment that included a wheelchair-bound child had their raft flipped at Three-Oar-Deal. Guides from Teton Whitewater and Dave Hansen Whitewater were first to respond and pull ejected floaters to their boats. An elderly man from that party reportedly required medical care and was transported to a hospital.
Cernicek advised anyone looking to float the Snake right now to go with a professional.
“Your life should be worth sixty bucks to you,” Cernicek said. “Our commercial outfitters are the best. They have great safety records. They are trained. They have experience. They are professional.”
Cernicek continued, “What we have right now is many people visiting Jackson Hole this time of the season and they are people who maybe always come at the same time of year. And they always rent a raft and use ‘Joe’ to guide them because he’s been down the river five or six times. And everything always turns out great. But what we have this year is big water. It’s more water than people are used to in past seasons. You need the proper equipment, the proper clothing for cold water. You need up-to-date knowledge of every hydraulic, every river feature. If you are renting a raft, you probably shouldn’t be on the water.”
Watch as man falls from Lewis & Clark raft at Big Kahuna and is pulled back into the boat by guide before Lunch Counter. (Aug 2014).