Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers responded to a report of a kayak accident at approximately 6:20 p.m. in the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River in the Greenbrier section of the park.
Kenneth C. Worthington, age 53, of Apex, N.C. capsized his kayak and floated to the river edge where friends pulled him from the river. Park rangers, Gatlinburg Police Department, and Gatlinburg Fire Department responded to the scene and performed CPR on Worthington before he was transported to LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville where he was pronounced dead.
Rangers remind visitors that water recreation is not recommended in the park due to numerous hazards and dangers. Weather forecasts for the Fourth of July holiday week include heavy rain and thunderstorms, which can cause river levels to rise rapidly. Serious water-related injuries occur each year in the Park, including fatalities such as this kayak accident.
“With the forecast of rain throughout the week, I encourage all visitors to be extremely cautious around rivers as conditions can change unpredictably,” said Acting Chief Ranger Steve Kloster. “We want all our visitors to have a memorable experience in the park that is both enjoyable and safe.”
River levels can rise rapidly when thunderstorms strike in the mountains. Heavy rains at higher elevations caused flash flooding earlier this month in Greenbrier and Cosby that damaged roads and washed out footbridges along hiking trails. Rangers remind visitors not to attempt to cross swollen rivers. Hikers should alter their routes to avoid crossing any rising river by waiting until the river has receded or returning by another route.
For more information about water safety in the Park, please visit the Park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/watersafety.htm