Tennessee park officials say a Clayton man was wearing a life jacket when a raft carrying him and six others overturned on the Ocoee River on Saturday afternoon.
Gary Brown, 50, who lived on Pinecroft Drive in Clayton, died before he reached Copper Basin Medical Center, a hospital along the Ocoee near the Tennessee-North Carolina state line.
Brown was on a whitewater rafting trip, led by Endless River Adventures of Bryson City. Juliet Kastorff of Endless River Adventures said Brown was one of about 10 friends who went on the rafting trip.
The group drove from Bryson City to the Ocoee River, a popular venue for rafting enthusiasts with class 3 and class 4 rapids.
Shortly after 1 p.m. on Saturday, Brown, five others and a guide were traveling down the Middle Ocoee River when they reached the “Table Saw” rapid. That’s where the raft flipped over, sending everyone into the water, said Kelly Brockman, a spokeswoman for Tennessee State Parks.
Someone found Brown unresponsive downriver. Park investigators say he was wearing a life jacket and helmet and that he had no external injuries.
Kastorff added that it’s mandatory that rafters also wear helmets on the Ocoee.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee State Parks are still investigating but are treating Brown’s death as an accidental drowning. An autopsy is not scheduled, per the local medical examiner, said Glenn Moates, the wildlife agency’s assistant chief of boating and law enforcement.