Kayaker Dies on Great Falls; Falls Race Cancelled at Potomac River Fest

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The training run death of kayaker Shannon Christy, 23, of Greenville, S.C., on the Great Falls of the Potomac cancelled the annual Great Falls Race as part of the weekend’s 26th annual Potomac River Festival. While the other Potomac River Festival events went on as scheduled, organizers cancelled the race so friends and family could hold a memorial service on the Virginia side of the river…

The death occurred Thursday, July 11, when Christy was kayaking with another boater and ran the rapids of the Center Lines of Great Falls. The second boater followed Christy into the first rapid, Grace Under Pressure, according to event organizer Active Nature, but couldn’t find her or her boat. He continued down the run and as he approached the last major rapid, he saw Christy swimming and getting swept into a dangerous rapid called Subway.

After alerting authorities, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue and helicopters with U.S. Park Police were dispatched to conduct the search, but found a group of up to 10 volunteer rescue kayakers – including world-class kayakers Steve Fisher, Jason Beakes and Geoff Calhoun – already working to retrieve the body from Subway rapid via an intricate system of rappels and pulleys. The body was recovered about two hours later.

“She was an expert kayaker,” Beakes said in an interview with NBC Washington afterward. “We had some of the best kayakers in the world on hand and it took a lot of effort just to get that spot in the river.”

“Shannon Christy loved kayaking and it is through kayaking that we honor her memory,” said Active Nature, which organized the event, in a statement.

For a live on-site interview with kayak rescuers from NBC Washington, CLICK HERE