Details are hard to come by in the wake of the rafting accident on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park that killed three last Friday. Part of the problem is that river rangers are trying to interview everyone who was in the vicinity when the 13-passenger raft flipped shortly before 11 a.m.
Apparently, the raft, which measured roughly 18-and-a-half feet long by 8 feet wide, hit a partially submerged tree's root ball sideways and was lifted vertically in the air, tossing the passengers out.
While the boatman, assisted by other raft guides in the area, began rescuing the 12 passengers, two -- 63-year-old John Rizas and his 58-year-old wife, Elizabeth, of Beaufort, South Carolina -- could not be revived by CPR. The third victim, 69-year-old Linda Clark of Shreveport, Louisiana, was found later trapped beneath a log jam
One question rangers are trying to answer is why the life vests the Rizas were wearing didn't save their lives. The vests were rated Class 5, the highest rating issued.
There were a number of raft companies on the Snake River at the time of the accident, although how nearby they were hasn't been released by park officials. The raft involved was operated by the Grand Teton Lodge Company, the park's main concessionaire. There were three other GTLC rafts on the river at the time of the accident.
I've heard, although park officials have not confirmed, that the raft that capsized was making the first of the company's scenic runs of the day. Apparently, a second GTLC raft immediately tied up to shore after the first ran into the root ball and dumped its passengers. That raft's guide radioed for help and then joined the rescue operation.
As I mentioned in my first post about this tragedy, the Snake River is a very cold river, and where the accident occurred it is very fast running.
I understand park officials will be releasing additional information later today, and I'll pass that on.