Rafter dies on Lower Rogue

South Carolina man, 57, was experienced

GOLD BEACH — A South Carolina man died Friday after falling into a remote stretch of the Rogue River where his raft got stuck in a treacherous rapid.

Curry County Sheriff John Bishop said Monday that his office was waiting for a state medical examiner's investigation to determine if the man drowned or died from another medical condition.

The victim was identified as 57-year-old Steven D. Hoyer of Spartanburg, who Bishop described as an experienced rafter.

Hoyer was rowing his raft into Blossom Bar, a Class IV rapid in the Rogue's Wild and Scenic Section, when the raft became stuck on a row of rocks known to boaters as The Picket Fence, according to the Curry County Sheriff's Department. While trying to free his raft, Hoyer slipped and fell into the river, deputies said.

Bishop said Hoyer was wearing a life jacket and helmet and initially indicated to others along the river that he was fine. However, he was unconscious when people in a private jetboat retrieved his body from the river several hundred feet below the Picket Fence, deputies said.

They performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Hoyer as the jetboat rushed about 11 miles downstream to Foster Bar, where they were met by sheriff's deputies and Agness Fire and Rescue personnel, deputies said.

Sheriff's deputies Monday did not know whether Hoyer was rafting as part of a private party or with the aid of an outfitter.

Blossom Bar is the signature rapid and considered the most difficult to negotiate within the 34-mile Wild and Scenic Section, which is largely accessible only by the river, the Rogue River Trail or by helicopter.

Most rafting fatalities associated with Blossom Bar have happened at The Picket Fence, with two boaters dying there in separate drownings in mid-July 2008.

However, those accidents occurred during a high-water summer when flows through Blossom Bar were almost 50 percent higher than normal, records show.

Overall flows this summer through the Lower Rogue Canyon have been lower than average, and they vacillate based on summer water releases into the Rogue from Lost Creek Lake to help Rogue chinook salmon migrate to upstream spawning grounds.

The National Weather Service reported flows through Blossom Bar at about 1,700 cubic feet per second Monday, or about 300 cfs less than common mid-July flows.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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