A 48-year-old woman died on the Deschutes River near Pringle Falls on Wednesday afternoon after she went over the falls on a 9-foot raft at about 5:30 p.m., according to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.
Lisa Braughton, of Silver Lake, was camping at Pringle Falls Campground.
Earvin Hoaglen, 40, a family member who was on the raft with Braughton, was able to swim to shore after the raft capsized, Capt. Marc Mills said. The woman’s body was recovered about three-quarters of a mile downstream from the falls.
“Last he saw her, she was still floating downriver,” Mills said.
Sheriff’s deputies were on the scene, west of La Pine, five minutes after the incident was reported.
Pringle Falls is a Class IV rapid in a section of an otherwise calm, Class I river.
Under the International Scale of River Difficulty, Class IV means that the rapid is very difficult to pass safely. Such sections of river are characterized by long rapids with high waves, dangerous rocks and boiling eddies. They demand expertise in boating, powerful and precise maneuvering, and excellent equipment.
While Class IV waters are easier to navigate than Class V (extremely difficult) and Class VI, which are unrunnable, it is essential to scout Class IV sections of river before attempting them.
The raft was not equipped for the class of water in the area, and Braughton and Hoaglen also were not prepared, according to a press release from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities would not comment on whether alcohol was involved.
The Deschutes County Search and Rescue team located Braughton’s body at 7:40 p.m., Sgt. Ronny Dozier said. Braughton was not wearing a life jacket when she was found, but authorities said she and Hoaglen were wearing life jackets when the raft capsized.
As dusk fell, a small white motorized raft brought Braughton’s body to the shore. The Deschutes River was flowing fast and high Wednesday night, with the water close to the top of the grassy east bank by the campground.
This is the first drowning in the Deschutes River this year. Last summer, four Oregonians died in the Deschutes and nearby waterways.
Those deaths include 17-year-old Elesha Newton, of Redmond, who died after going over Cline Falls near Redmond; Roger Friesen, 50, of Dallas, who drowned after a boating accident in Wickiup Reservoir; Dennis Wade, 63, of La Pine, who drowned while swimming in the Little Deschutes River; and Todd Justin Sampson, 26, who drowned near Awbrey Falls after becoming stuck in an underwater lava tube.