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Authorities identify Missoula man who died rafting on Lochsa River

Authorities identify Missoula man who died rafting on Lochsa River

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A 29-year-old Missoula man died Wednesday after the raft he was in flipped over on the Lochsa River in north-central Idaho.

Keegan Seth Ginther is the second person to die on the Lochsa River in the past month.

According to the Idaho County Sheriff's Office, Ginther was swept downstream after his raft turned over at Lochsa Falls Rapid, located around mile post 112 on U.S. Highway 12. Ginther and the four others with him, also from Missoula, were thrown from the raft. Authorities said all were wearing life jackets.

Another rafter was able to get to shore where he flagged down a passing car, which drove him down river where he was able to pull Ginther from the water.

The Idaho County Sheriff's department received a call at about 2:30 p.m. notifying them of the overturned raft and that CPR was being performed on one person.

Medical personnel arrived at the scene shortly thereafter, and CPR continued unsuccessfully for an hour before Ginther was pronounced dead. He was then taken to Trenary's funeral home in Kooksia, Idaho.

A similar incident took place on the Lochsa River on May 28 when a Wisconsin man died after the raft he was in hit a rapid and threw him and three others into the water.

Thirty-five-year-old Randy Eroen was also unable to get to shore, and was eventually pulled from the water by a group of kayakers. Both the kayakers and rafters performed CPR on Eroen until paramedics arrived, however, he couldn't be revived. The accident occurred around mile post 132 on Highway 12.

The fatalities are puzzling for Justin Walsh of Bearpaw River Expeditions, who said up until a month ago, there hadn't been a death on the Lochsa River in 15 years.

"Frankly, I'm shocked we've had two fatalities on the Lochsa this year when there's been zero in years past," Walsh said.

Bearpaw River Expeditions is a white-water rafting guide company that solely operates on the Lochsa River, and Walsh said conditions aren't more dangerous this year than in previous years.

Unlike other rivers in western Montana and northern Idaho, the Lochsa River hasn't experienced any unprecedented flood waters in the past month, Walsh said, so although the river is six feet at the Lowell Bridge - higher than it typically would this time of year - "six feet isn't that unusually high of a level," he said.

The Lochsa River was running at about 15,000 cubic feet per second on Wednesday, also high for this time of year, but nothing particularly unusual for those familiar with the Lochsa, Walsh said.

"What we've had is a slow and gradual run off where the water has stayed consistently at steady flows," he said. "Those flows are fine for rafting guides and river savvy people."

Rafts flipping over also aren't an unusual event for rafters on the river.

"For a lot of our customers that's part of the thrill - taking the swim and having the raft flip over," he said. "That's the Lochsa ... rafts do flip over"

Although he said white-water rafting is less dangerous than driving a car - citing a study by American Whitewater in 2006 that also found rafting is less dangerous than climbing and scuba diving - rafters should still be aware of the risks.

"The Lochsa is a big white-water river and the types that run the river are the adrenaline junkies," he said. "There are risks, but we accept those risks."

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