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.
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