Kayaker dies after high winds flip craft

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 12:22 PM


PULLMAN, Wash. -- Gonzaga University freshman Chris Gormley, 18, died Sunday afternoon at a Spokane hospital after his kayak capsized earlier that day on Rock Lake northwest of St. John.

Another Gonzaga freshman, 18-year-old Tucker J. Brinkman, was injured in the same incident.

Whitman County deputies said they were called to the scene at 12:04 p.m. Sunday after receiving a report that several kayakers' boats had capsized on Rock Lake.

By the time deputies arrived, it was clear that three boats had capsized and Gormley and Brinkman were still missing. Reports state emergency responders and citizens from the St. John area launched boats and found two adult males in the water about one mile north of the boat launch on Rock Lake Road. Officials said both appeared to be suffering from hypothermia. Reports state Gormley, of Everett, was airlifted from the scene to a Spokane hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Brinkman was transported to a Spokane hospital by ambulance. Officials said he has since been released and is in good condition.

Five other students and guides returned safely from the kayaking trip according to Gonzaga president Thayne McCulloh, who issued a statement Monday extending his sympathies to Gormley's parents as well as to the student's friends and acquaintances at the university.

"A service in Chris' honor is planned before Easter," McCulloh wrote. "We will share information on arrangements as they are confirmed."

According to reports, high winds causing large waves apparently caused the kayaks to capsize. The air temperature at the time of the incident was 34 degrees, and officials said all of the boaters including the two victims were wearing life jackets.

Deputies will continue to investigate the incident.


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