In an agonizing twist of fate, longtime Idaho kayaker Conrad Fourney, 48, was killed on the North Fork of the Payette Sunday after his boat became pinned in Nutcracker Rapid, part of the upper five miles of this famous 15-mile, Class V run.
“We’re all devastated,” Anne Poinier, a friend, told the Idaho Statesman “He was absolutely a fantastic man.”
According to initial reports, Fourney was paddling with Ron Reiterman and McCall’s Marty Rood and Jesse Murphy. He was pinned behind the “Nut,” the rapid’s crux section. He swam and rescuers believe his foot became entrapped in the riverbed. When rescuers finally did reach him, he was pulled out on river left, away from the road. CPR attempts were unsuccessful.
This winter, Fourney rescued a woman who was pinned on the Main Payette. She had been stuck against a rock near Go Left Rapid for nearly an hour before he manned an inflatable kayak, caught an eddy behind where she was stuck and freed her. Video of the harrowing rescue made it to national news outlets like NBC and CBS and a Q and A with Fourney ran in Paddler magazine. He also appeared on the CBS “Morning Show,” to speak about the accident.
Fourney – originally from West Virginia – leaves behind his nine-year-old son, Noah, who lives in Boise. He’s a former owner of Headwaters River Company. Two of his ex-employees, Russell Kelly and Damon Miller, kayaking legends as well, died within the last three years in non-river accidents. Fourney has guided in New Zealand, Africa, Central America and is part of a small club of kayakers who have run the Grand Canyon of the Stikine in Canada’s Northwest Territories. He and Miller were the first to run the Stikine’s V-Drive Rapid.
– Joe Carberry