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FEATURE NEWS

Gold Bar, WA Volunteer Firefighter Dies In Weekend Kayak Accident On
Snoqualmie River

February 12, 2018




File photo. Water Rescue, King County Sheriff’s Office Air Support unit.


CLICK TO ENLARGE: Gold Bar volunteer firefighter Sam Grafton seen in image posted over the weekend by Gold Bar Firefighter’s Association.


CLICK TO ENLARGE
Chronicle staff

(NORTH BEND, WA.) –- A weekend kayaking trip among friends on the north fork of the Snoqualmie River in King County turned to tragedy on Saturday when one of the kayakers ran into trouble and lost his life on the river.

He was identified Saturday by the Gold Bar Firefighters Association as one of their own, volunteer firefighter/EMT Sam Grafton. Grafton was 25-years old, according to the American Whitewater Association.

By Sunday, Grafton’s name had already been added to the association’s database of 82 kayaking injuries and fatalities dating back to 1987. The AWA says Grafton's accident happened at a place on the river called Ernie’s Gorge, a passage through the river that is dangerous in high water and one that requires a high level of skill.

In a posting on Facebook the Gold Bar Firefighter’s Association wrote, “It is with disbelief and heavy hearts that we learned our longtime volunteer Firefighter/EMT and rescue technician Sam Grafton passed away today. Sam died doing what he loved, Kayaking the Snoqualmie River near North Bend, WA. Your friendship to our community and selfless passion for helping others will never be forgotten.”

Sgt. Mark Rorvik, with the King County Sheriff’s Office told KIRO-TV that six kayakers went into the water for the trip downriver and then around 1:30 pm other members in Grafton’s party saw him “get into trouble,” his kayak overturned in the frigid, fast moving water and his life jacket came off.

Grafton floated downriver as the other kayakers tried to catch up to him to pull him out of the water but to no avail. The accident became a recovery mission with the sheriff’s office air support helicopter searching for the young man’s body. It was eventually found.

Heather Chadwick, Public Information Officer for Fire District 7 in Snohomish County told a reporter for KOMO-TV that Grafton was also a rescue technician trained in swift water rescue and high angle rescues. She said he had a zest for life and had traveled the world kayaking down various rivers.

A GoFundMe page has been established here to help Graton’s family with memorial fund expenses.

Sam is survived by his parents, Fred and Sabrina, and two brothers, Rowan and Nat.

Last fatal kayak accident was 2017 on Wenatchee River

According to the AWA’s database, the last river-running fatal accident in Washington state was August 29, 2017 when 61-year old Michael Lawrence of Hollywood, Florida died while solo kayaking down the Wenatchee River to the Tumwater Campground.

According to the AWA, he was not wearing a personal flotation device. The Chelan County Sheriff;s office said at the time that Lawrence, “was seen struggling to swim after a kayak around 1:23 pm... south of the Chapel Drive bridge in Plain.” Responders recovered him at the bottom of the river in 5-foot deep water.





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