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Africa Kayak Expedition Update
Posted on December 8, 2010

Yesterday Eddie Bauer received word that the South African whitewater guide, Hendri Coetzee, who was leading First Ascent Kayakers Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic through the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was pulled from his kayak on the Lukuga River by a crocodile and is presumed dead. Following the incident, Ben and Chris were able to paddle to safety and contact the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which dispatched a team to evacuate them to safety. U.S. and South African embassies were also notified. The team is completing formalities with local authorities in Congo and expects to return home shortly.

The First Ascent kayak team, including Ben, Chris, Jesse Coombs and Darin McQuoid, partnered with Hendri, a well-known African guide with many first descents and extensive knowledge of the whitewater in and around the DRC, in a first of its kind whitewater kayaking expedition from the headwaters of the White Nile and Congo Rivers into the DRC. The mission for the Africa kayak expedition was to run and document the unexplored whitewater of the region, while focusing on the people and clean water crisis in Central Africa. Jesse and Darin returned to the U.S. in November after the first leg of the trip, as originally planned, while Ben and Chris continued on.

We are saddened by the tragic accident and express our deepest sympathies to Hendri’s family and friends. We would like to thank the IRC and Solidarites International, who continue to provide assistance and support to the team.

Author: - Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

  1. Bob Cov

    Sad loss of life. Preventable, but sad. Seems like a kayak might not have been adequate for protection in that stretch of the river.

  2. Ron Forman

    Hendrik (Hendri) Coetzee, R.I.P my friend the kayaking world will miss you.
    Again deepest sympathies to your family and friends.

  3. raul

    Being a kayaker myself I offen worry of the danger in the water that we cannot see…

    My sympathies to your family…….. R.I.P

  4. Georgiana Gallagher

    What a tragedy for Heni and what terrible sadness for his family. Living around alligators here in Florida has always been interesting!? But the crocs are another story! Prayer for all.

  5. Mindy

    Being very familiar with both expedition kayaking and international conservation, I am all too familiar with the risks associated with this type of expedition and I am sorry for the loss of such an incredible person but take comfort in the fact that Africa will be a better place after having “known” Hendri.

  6. Robert Payne

    In my worst nightmares, it is a shark or this.

  7. Leah

    I feel sorry for people like Philip. This isn’t about you or how witty you think you are. This is about a life lost and respect for our fellow man.

    To Henri’s family I express my deepest sympathy. It sounds like Henri lived live to the fullest and would want you to celebrate that for him. God Bless

  8. David Crowell

    As a fellow kayaker and nature lover I am saddened by this tragedy.

    My prayers to family and friends.

  9. Vr_

    gg. bunny hop and conc jumping wouldnt of worked.
    prayers to his family and friends and followers. wish no one had to die that way but if it happends i hope all pain and suffering is very little. its hard for animals and humans to co-exist but he bridged the gap with his knowlage of the waters and animals.
    Like he says. Never Panic.
    his words will live on, looking down on us now.

  10. Kay

    But what a glorious life to have lived !!

  11. lemonadelady

    thank- u for letting me live in a different world for a little while. god bless u and yor family

  12. Mac McConnell

    For years I worked off and on in a small town on a tributary of the Nile, in Ethiopia. During that period a Peace Corps kid was recovered by shooting the crocodile that ate him, and a hippo bit in half a small dugout canoe, including one leg of the paddler, who recovered in a mission clinic. If you insist on challenging these critters on equal terms, don’t be surprised when they win!

  13. Heather

    So sorry to hear this and for Hendri’s family and friends.

    I rafted down the Zambezi a few years ago. When we got to the calmer, croc parts of the river, our African guides riding in the safety kayaks pulled their kayaks onto our rafts and rode with us. They said that kayaks are too small and crocs aren’t afraid of them – so they’ll attack.
    So… I’m not sure I understand why this had to happen. Wouldn’t an experienced person know this?
    So sad.

  14. Chepín Mora

    I commend the man for living his life in service to himself,the planet and the people and children he touched in his work. My condolences to his family and loved ones. Fearlessness in the service of love and sustainability is truly a wonderful thing.

  15. Tina

    Horrifying for his fellow explorers, I’m sure, but he left this earth doing what he was here for and loving it.

  16. Adam

    Hendri lived!! Most people don’t.

    I wish I would have known him. Bless you my brother.

  17. Tim Howard

    My sincere regrets to his family…a big loss for all of us RIP Kayaker!

  18. Richard Sheppard

    From all of the rafters and Kayakers at Vic Falls we wish his family our condolences.
    He was living life on his terms alone and was a great guy on and off the river.

  19. Ros Ambler Lindley

    RIP dear unmet but known brave kayaker, or continue with this life of excitement and adrenaline rush wherever you may be. Thank you for enabling me (an ex-kayaker)to follow your wondrous expedition in print and photos. Prayers of strength to your family and friends.

  20. Dave Humpleby

    I had the great privilege of being a good friend and colleague of Hendri Coetzee. When we first met, Hendri had never sat in a kayak. Yet in the space of a few short years he became one of the most renowned, respected and trusted safety kayakers, rafting guides and expedition leaders on the African Continent. This is testimony to his focus, drive and determination; just a few of his many admirable qualities. The river team Hendri and I belonged to were a ‘band of brothers’ who contributed to the best years of my life in Africa. They will always hold a special place in my mind and heart.

    There are people (who obviously did not know Hendri) who have criticised the way he lived his life. I find this deplorable and, quite frankly, ignorant. Those of us who have explored remote, wild areas of the globe and have pushed ourselves mentally and physically in harsh, hazardous, often hostile environments truly appreciate Hendri’s herculean accomplishments and his tremendous contribution to exploration and the paddling world. Through his exploits Hendri exposed the plight of impoverished people in numerous regions to a global audience. As a result areas once devoid of clean drinking water and sanitation now benefit from these most basic of commodities. This is just one example of the many ways in which Hendri’s expeditions benefited remote communities.

    Hendri often quoted the phrase, “The gift that keeps on giving.” Though not (always) speaking about himself, the phrase aptly sums up the man Hendri was. His adventures directly improved the lives of countless people. In his short life Hendri experienced and achieved more than most of us will do even if we live twice as long. He lived life to the max and died whilst doing what he loved most. He was an inspiration and a cherished friend who is sorely missed.

    Some say ‘Rest in Peace’. I say “Hendri, wherever you are, paddle hard and take chances. Some days are diamonds!”

  21. Jennifer Dengel

    “What benefit is it for a man to gain the whole world and to forfeit his soul?”
    Jesus indeed advocated love, compassion, courage…etc.
    But those things are truly meaningless without salvation.
    Yes, they are good deeds, but what is the point of doing good deeds if you are not saved? Doing good deeds does not save you, only the righteousness that is found in faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
    He lived life to the max and found death whilst doing what he loved most. The only inspiration I draw from this tragedy is that we should recognize our limitations and put our trust in God. None of us pass through this life without experiencing some degree of sorrow.
    May God have mercy on his soul, grant him eternal rest and give his family and relatives courage and strength to bear this terrible loss.

  22. Cari Mackey

    This is a sad story indeed, it is shocking but not surprising. I am thankful for the men of this First Ascent team for exploring places that I can only dream of. Without these types of expeditions and having films made the rest of our planet can never know of their wildness and beauty.
    It is always hard to lose a friend but I think all those close to Hendri as well as Ben, Chris, and Jesse of Clear H20 Films know the risks of the ultimate adventures they pursue every day of their lives. I did not know Hendri, I imagine he knew what he was getting into and I am sure he accepted his ultimate fate as he was one with that part of the world. He would not appreciate the types of criticism I have read about this and I don’t imagine he would want people to have pity on him or his family. He was a true adventurer and has made this planet a better place because of his ultimate accomplishments.
    I don’t imagine this will stop the explorations of the first Ascent Team and the amazing support they receive from the Eddie Bauer family. Though this is sad news, it is important to appreciate what these men are doing; they are explorers of untold lands and rivers. They are helping to expose what humans do to destroy these places and helping those of us that can’t go there to understand the importance of protecting these wild lush lands and rivers. There will be a time of mourning and and time when these men will question what they are doing. We need to help them to understand the importance of their quest to explore unknown rivers and it is up to all of us to encourage them to continue in their pursuit of adventure so that these amazing rivers can be protected, the sport can continue to grow, and we can all enjoy the amazing films that they create as a result of all of this.
    May we all think of the friends and family as they celebrate the amazing life this young man lead and the legend he leaves behind.

  23. carolina

    I’m sorry, my condolences to his family R.I.P.

  24. Naira

    My deepest sympathies to Henry’s Family. He was a great kayaker and it’s a big loos for whitewater community! Rest in Piece Henry! and I wanted to add that ones it was said “Death is not a problem if you have lived first.” And form what I read Henry believed in that as well…..good life, great paddler and a person dedicated to cause…. you will be missed

  25. TC johnstone

    When I go I want to Go like this. These guys are truly living. Way to live life to the full. These guys are the best of the best And they fully understand the risk they are taking. Some will die like this, other die daily in front of a TV watching others live. Way to encourage us to explore. Sorry for your loss but, We morn with you.

  26. Jamie

    Just read about this tragedy on a cnn article. These guys are doing what they love doing and taking huge risks, but they are living life. RIP

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