Tragedy strikes Payette River floaters on the 4th

The Payette River as it approaches the diversion dam. The wider path of the river goes over a rock dam that would be to the left of the island in this picture.

Floating the Payette River into Emmett is a common summer ritual for many Gem County residents. That ritual turned tragic on the Fourth of July when five adult women floating from Plaza Bridge to Washington Bridge overturned at the Farmers Cooperative Diversion Dam. One woman died at the scene, a second was life-flighted to Boise and the other three received treatment at Valor Health.

Misty Cannon Martin, 44, a former resident of Emmett now residing in Washington, perished in the mishap.

Holly Reed, Emmett, was taken from the riverside to a Boise hospital by air ambulance and is reported to be recovering.

Jani Stroud, Shae Stroud and Gabby Edwards, all of Emmett also survived the afternoon ordeal.

The five were enjoying a “ladies day out.” Four of the five had years of experience floating the river. The quintet were floating in a raft and three inner tubes when they approached the diversion dam.

One floater, Edwards, was a bit ahead of the rest and opted to get out of the river and walk around the diversion.

“I walked down the canal path around the diversion and got back into the water a ways below and waited for the rest to catch up,” Edwards related to the Messenger Index. “I’ve always chickened out going that way and walked around.”

Looking back toward the diversion dam she then witnessed a nightmare unfold.

Martin and Reed in the inflatable raft went over the diversion dam and submerged.

Shae Stroud, whose inner tube was tethered to the raft, was able to latch onto metal structures at the diversion and hold on. Jani Stroud also submerged after clearing the dam but was able to find a branch to cling to downriver.

The time frame and sequence of events that followed are still somewhat of a blur to Edwards.

“It felt like a lifetime between everything and it still seemed to happen in a flash,” Edwards said. “There was no time to think, just time to react.”

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Edwards tried to make her way back into the stream to help and after fighting the water flow and slippery rocks tried advancing on shore but was hindered by heavy undergrowth and no pathway.

She witnessed both Martin and Reed going under and coming back up until finally she saw Martin float away. Once she saw Reed being attended to and Jani Stroud secured down steam she was able to get back to Shae Stroud still clinging to a diversion support structure.

Edwards says that while the five were out in front of a large number of other floaters on Thursday, individuals stepped up to help as they arrived at the location, though it may have been ten minutes before they arrived.

One individual, only known as “Wade,” was first on the spot to pull Reed from the water downstream from where the two branches of the river rejoin and began CPR. He was shortly relieved by a couple of recent Emmett High graduates, Savannah Dimmick and Abby Buck. They were able to restore and maintain breathing until emergency personnel arrived.

The early floaters who arrived were without cell phones. Adam Dimmick who was floating with his sister and Buck took off down stream and then ran for help while the girls remained to perform CPR.

Gem County dispatch received the first of a handful of calls alerting them of the situation at 3:12 p.m. That may have been as much as 20 minutes after Martin and Reed were first immersed.

Martin was pulled from the river about a mile further downstream, within a few hundred yards of the Washington Avenue bridge, by a couple and a third man who apparently swam across the river to assist on the opposite shore. All efforts to revive Martin failed.

Martin, who graduated from Emmett High as Misty Cannon, had frequently floated the river for years though was currently living in the state of Washington.

Edwards gave a “shoutout to Gem County EMS for their fast response once they were able to be notified. A boat was there and we were out of the area quickly and off to medical services. I can’t say enough to all the people who helped.”

Chief Deputy Sheriff Donnie Wonder pointed out in a earlier interview with the Messenger Index that the entire stretch of the Payette from below Black Canyon Dam all the way to Payette and its convergence with the Snake River is considered a wild river and not a managed recreation venue.

“It is not an unlimited public access river,” Wonder said. “The majority of the river banks are privately owned. We don’t have the resources to provide safety monitoring let alone waterway clearance services. This is a natural resource with its natural perils. It’s not that the river should be feared but it should be respected.”

A Go-Fund-Me page has been established to assist with final expenses for Misty Cannon Martin at gofundme.com/misty039s-memorial-service.

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