CRUSO — Emergency responders recovered the body of a Kentucky man who drowned while kayaking in the storm-swollen rapids of the Big East Fork of the Pigeon River.
Authorities said 36-year-old Richard Scott Bradfield was last seen alive Thursday afternoon on a section of the river that runs through the Pisgah National Forest off U.S. 276 in Haywood County.
“The vessel capsized and he came up out of the water and was swept away,” said Chief Deputy Jeff Haynes of the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office. “This was a tragic incident, and our deepest sympathies go out to his family.”
The body was discovered near a riverbank in the Shining Rock Wilderness around 7:20 p.m. Friday. It was well after midnight during a heavy downpour when rescuers finally were able to get Bradfield out, Haynes said.
“We had a very long walk in and out,” he said. “It was very rugged terrain.”
A swiftwater rescue team from Brevard and other personnel on the ground participated in the search and recovery. The victim was taken to MedWest-Haywood, where he was pronounced dead.
Bradfield, of Lexington, Ky., was in a group of seven kayakers from the same area when he fell into the water and was swept away. Haynes said Bradfield was not a novice kayaker, but the river was raging following heavy rainstorms that pounded the region.
“Due to the rainfall we’ve had over the last several days, the rapids were treacherous,” he said. “We ask that visitors and residents please be mindful of high water, and please exercise extreme caution when participating in wilderness activity during hazardous conditions.”
The group American Whitewater advises kayakers to avoid extremes of water and weather.
“Very high flows and cold temperatures pose special challenges to paddlers,” according to the organization’s website. “If you don’t have the specialized gear and skills needed, wait until conditions improve.”