A fatality at Crystal Rapid on March 30, 2007 has been determined to be a drowning.
Marc Allred, 62 years old, of Salt Lake City, Utah, was rowing the Colorado River in Grand Canyon with 11 other people when the accident occurred. Reports indicate that the group of 6 rafts and a kayaker scouted and then ran the rapid, with Mr. Allred in last position. Although his raft did not flip, he was thrown into the turbulent water of the first hole while attempting to run the right side. His passenger was also thrown from the boat but was rescued unharmed.
An initial toxicology report showed an abnormally high level of alcohol, but according to Dr. Lawrence Czarnecki, Coconino County Medical Examiner, the reported level was so elevated that it would have caused death due to alcohol poisoning even before arrival at Crystal Rapid. This finding prompted a 2nd toxicology study which ruled out alcohol or drugs as a contributing cause of Mr. Allred's death. A cardiac arrest or laryngeal spasm (where breathing does not resume even after surfacing) was also ruled out.
Mr. Allred was well-outfitted, wearing a type III life jacket, wetsuit, neoprene booties and a spray jacket at the time of the incident.
Crystal Rapid holds the record as the most lethal rapid in Grand Canyon, with a total of 6 fatalities split evenly between commercial and self guided trips. "This may be due to the long swim potential with temporary entrapment in the Crystal hole" notes Dr. Tom Myers, co-author of Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, and an avid river runner himself.
In an unrelated incident, 67 year old Donald Keyes suffered a fatal heart attack Saturday May 19th, 2007, while hiking in Saddle Canyon.
Keyes, a retired curator for the Georgia Museum of Art and resident of Athens, GA, was on the second day of a commercial river trip when he suffered sudden cardiac arrest in the Saddle Canyon Narrows. He was pronounced dead on the scene by a cardiologist who was also on the trip.
The river party had hiked roughly one half mile from the river and climbed 400 feet in elevation to gain access to the popular Narrows. According to National Park Service representatives, Keyes had a history of heart trouble, and extrication of Keyes' body was complicated by high winds at the time.
River Runners for Wilderness extends our deepest sympathy to the friends, family and fellow trip participants of these river runners and also urges the utmost caution while navigating Crystal Rapid.