5 Dead in Costa Rica Rafting Tragedy

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Costa Rica's Rio Naranjo, where the accident occurred.

Four American tourists and a local guide were killed last weekend in a rafting accident on Costa Rica’s Rio Naranjo.

A popular rafting run, the river forms the southern border of Manuel Antonio National Park and offers several different sections, including a lower, six-mile stretch running from the town of Villanueva to the Llamarón Bridge on the road from Quepos to Dominical with such rapids as La Piñata, El Cesar and Robin Hood; and the upper, Class IV El Chorro section, where the accident occurred. According to an outfitter’s web site, “Experienced paddlers and hard-core rafting enthusiasts will thrill to Class IV rapids in a tight, geologically fascinating canyon.”

According to an AP report, three rafts flipped on the Naranjo near Liverpool de Quepos on Saturday, Oct. 20, around 3 p.m. and the five victims were carried away downstream.

Fourteen tourists were aboard the three rafts and five guides. Other passengers managed to cling to the rafts and some were rescued by another guide in a kayak. The story identified the victims as Americans Ernesto Sierra, Jorge Caso, Sergio Lorenzo, and Andres Dennis, and local guide Kevin Thompson Reid.

“The accident was just terrible judgment as the river at the put-in was at flood level,” says Rafael Gallo, owner of longtime Costa Rican outfitter Rios Tropicales, which was not the outfitter involved. “Others decided not to run trips that day.”

Gallo adds that be believes the excursion was part of a bachelor party, but doesn’t know who the outfitter was.

According to AP, the Americans had been renting a house in nearby Playa Hermosa de Jaco. Authorities confirmed the river was swollen by rains, with the National Emergency Commission maintaining an alert in the area due to the possibility of flooding.

“It’s super sad news,” says Miles De Fey Ter, who used to safety kayak the El Chorro stretch. “The drive in from Quepos is long and pretty treacherous in its own right. The rains probably showed up during their run and caught them off guard.”