By Scott Graves
Pilot staff writer
As darkness fell Friday night, the body of a woman remained wedged in the rocks after the kayak she was in capsized near the most dangerous rapids on the Rogue River, authorities said.
A second woman in the boat survived.
This is the second person to drown in a rafting accident on the Rogue River this month.
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew was expected to arrive at the scene of the latest accident this morning (June 28) and try to retrieve the woman's body, which had become lodged in rocks in the rapids, said Curry County Sheriff John Bishop.
The two women were traveling in a two-person inflatable kayak with a group of rafters through the Blossom Bar rapids - a Class 4 rapid (a Class 5 rapid is the most technical - and treacherous - to navigate), Bishop said.
While floating through the rapids, located about 54 miles upriver from Gold Beach, the kayak hit a rock and capsized, throwing both women into the water, Bishop said.
Both women were sucked under the water for approximately 20 seconds next to the rocks. One of the women, Michelle Shillinglaw, 38, of Austin, Texas, was able climb up a rock and out of the water. The other woman, whose name was not being released until next of kin had been contacted, became stuck in the rocks and drowned, Bishop said.
The accident happened around 2:30 p.m. and someone with the rafting group was able to reach Paradise Lodge and call authorities at about 2:45 p.m., Bishop said.
Bishop and Marine Deputies Ted Heath responded in the department's marine patrol boat and tried to reach the woman's body without success.
andquot;The body is in a really bad spot,andquot; Bishop said. andquot;It's jammed in the rocks and the hydraulics of the water are keeping it there. We tried to reach it with a rope and then by boat, but we almost fell in ourselves.andquot;
At one point, Bishop and Heath tried to reach a person who became stuck on a rock after attempting to rescue the trapped woman, but their boat engine quit while in the rapids.
andquot;Deputy Heath was able to get the motor running again and kept the boat from hitting the rocks and capsizing,andquot; he said.
The U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew arrived at dusk Friday, but had to wait until morning to try to retrieve the body, Bishop said.
The survivor, Shillinglaw, was ferried by boat to the nearest road and then transported by ambulance to Curry General Hospital. She was listed in stable condition late Friday night.
A similar rafting mishap occurred on the Rogue River June 3.
California resident Robert Blight, 41, drowned after he and Dino James Fry, 41, of Hayward, Calif., attempted to swim across the river near Paradise Lodge after their raft drifted away while the two were ashore.
They attempted to swim across the river from the south side to the north where the Rogue River trail is located and is the only other way down the river. Fry was wearing a life jacket and made it to the north side of the river while Blight was not wearing a life jacket and became separated from Fry.
On June 7, the Curry County Sheriff's office received a call from the Clay Hill Lodge, about 45 miles east of Gold Beach, reporting that a rafter had spotted a body in the river near the mouth of Tate Creek, a mile above Clay Hill Lodge.
Marine Deputies Ted Heath and Walter Scherbarth responded to the area after launching their boat at Quosatana Creek. They were able to locate and retrieve Blight's body before it drifted into the rapids.