MOOSE — A Snake River rafting accident that killed three people occurred when the raft hit the root end of a tree that had lodged in a channel, Grand Teton National Park officials said Tuesday.
The accident Friday killed Elizabeth Rizas, 58, and John Rizas, 63, both of Beaufort, S.C., and Linda Clark, 69, of Shreveport, La. Nine others plus the boatman also fell into the water.
Park spokeswoman Joan Anzelmo said uprooted trees are commonly washed down the Snake River during the spring. She said the tree that caught the raft had washed away by Saturday.
According to park officials, the river splits into three narrow channels upstream of where the accident occurred, about a half-mile downstream of the Bar BC dude ranch.
The tree was in the middle channel, but it was difficult for anyone in the boat to get a view down that channel until the boat had fully entered it, park officials said.
After hitting the root ball, the current pushed the boat vertically. The raft then tipped onto its side and the passengers fell out. Boatmen from four commercial float trip companies helped get nine passengers out of the water and onto the riverbank.
Rescuers arrived to find one of the victims submerged in a log jam. The victim was unresponsive when recovered and attempts to revive the other two victims were also unsuccessful.
The raft that flipped was guided by Grand Teton Lodge Co., a park concessionaire.
Anzelmo said the investigation into the accident would continue.