Man on Whitewater Express trip dies after falling from raft, officials say

A stack of Whitewater Express rafts.
A stack of Whitewater Express rafts. Ledger-Enquirer File Photo

A whitewater rafter died late Saturday on the Chattahoochee River after he fell out of a raft going through a rapid on the northern part of the course, Dan Gilbert, owner of Whitewater Express confirmed.

The rafter was on a guided trip during high-flow when he fell out of the raft on the rapid they call Ambush, the first one on the course more than two miles north of downtown.

Muscogee County Assistant Coroner Charles Newton has not identified the man at 10 p.m., but said the cause of death was an apparent drowning. The body will be sent to state crime lab for an autopsy.

The man was wearing a life jacket and a helmet when he went into the river, Gilbert said.

“Our guides kept visual contact on him the entire time,” Gilbert said. “He was unresponsive when he was pulled into the raft.”

He was taken to the Alabama bank and transported by Phenix City medical emergency personnel to Jack Hughston Hospital. Newton said. He was pronounced dead at the hospital just before 8 p.m., Newton said.

Whitewater Express has been the lone outfitter on the urban whitewater course that opened in the summer of 2013. This is the first rafting fatality on the river in the six years of operation. Whitewater Express also operates on the Nantahala River in North Carolina and Ocoee in Tennessee. The company has been in business since 1980 and this is the first death, Gilbert said.

There have been more than a 150,000 rafters go down the river through Whitewater Express since 2013.

Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams