By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
An Ohio man was killed on Tuesday in a rafting accident on the on the Gros Ventre River in Teton County, according to Teton County Search and Rescue (TCSAR) officials.
TCSAR officials said they were contacted on Tuesday evening to respond to a report of a “cataraft” launched onto a stretch of whitewater below Lower Slide Lake flipping near a rapid known as “Hermit.”
While one person was able to climb back onto the craft, the other person continued downstream. Others in an accompanying watercraft tried to chase the man down the river, but were unable to retrieve him.
Volunteers with TCSAR responded with swiftwater recovery teams on foot and in rafts and deployed an aerial drone.
Grand Teton National Park also 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’s deputies also responded, as did many recreational river users already on the scene.
According to TCSAR officials, the man was reportedly last seen near a large boulder, around a quarter of a 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 stuck on a log jam about 1 mile downriver. Search and rescue volunteers managed to reach the man and bring him to shore.
TCSAR officials pointed out that the 3-mile stretch of whitewater in question is categorized as Class IV and is the most demanding, accessible whitewater stretch in Teton County.
On Tuesday, the river was flowing above its usual level by an average of about 2.5 feet. The area has been experiencing high water for nearly two weeks.
The numerous rapids were formed by the Gros Ventre Slide from 1925 and an ensuing flood, which created sharp, angular rocks that make any swimming especially hazardous.
SAR officials did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.