FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WVNS) — Two people died in separate rafting accidents in Fayette County over the last week.

According to the National Parks Service, the first incident happened on September 7, 2023, when a private rafting party flipped over near the Class V Iron Ring Rapid. The raft reportedly turned over, tossing three rafters overboard.

Officials say two of the rafters were able to swim safely to shore two of those thrown over were able to swim to shore safely. However, the third rafter, identified by officials as Norman LaHugh Cassell, 62, of Richmond, Virginia, was unconscious in the water. He was pulled to the shore by an off-duty rafting guide and immediately given CPR. Cassell was pronounced dead shortly after first responders arrived on scene.

According to the NPS press release, this incident happened on a training day for raft guides. Cassell’s official cause of death remains under investigation by West Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office.

The second accident happened two days later on September 9, 2023, when NPS Rangers received reports of a rafter being reportedly swept under a rock. Once on scene, responders learned the rafter had fallen out of the raft before being swept under an undercut rock known to many as “Shipwreck Rock.”

Responders requested an emergency flow reduction of the Gauley River from the Summersville Dam to rescue the rafter. Rescuers remained on scene throughout the day to monitor dropping water levels. High amounts of runoff from surrounding areas made the water levels too high to attempt a rescue, according to the NPS.

The victim was identified as Lee Lenora Doyle, 63, of Monterey, Virginia. Officials say Doyle was the only one of his party that fell into the water.

The park remains in a “holding pattern” while conditions are being monitored until they improve enough to attempt a body recovery.

The following first responder agencies helped in the events:

  • Ansted Volunteer Fire Department
  • Oak Hill Fire Volunteer Department
  • Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Department
  • Jan Care Ambulance
  • WV Division of Natural Resources
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Fayette County Rope Rescue Team
  • Beaver Volunteer Fire Department Dive Team