The teenage girl who fell off a raft during a whitewater paddling trip down the Ocoee River has died, according to church members who knew the girl, a family member and a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for the family's medical expenses.
The 15-year-old Florida girl was rafting with a group from her church on Sunday when paddlers in her boat fell out in the Class III+ tablesaw rapid. The girl's leg got caught in a rescue rope. She was rushed to Erlanger Medical Center and had been in critical condition on life support.
"[The girl's] family decided to take her off life support," an update on the page read. "There was too much swelling in her brain and nothing more the doctors could do. [She] has passed away and had her loving family by her side."
Two people from her church confirmed the information.
The decision was made Monday, according to the church members. There have been grief counselors to help the other children on the trip, according to one mother of a student on the trip.
An investigation is being conducted by Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park rangers who will be issuing a report at the conclusion of their work.
The girl's death is the fourth on the Ocoee this year, making 2019 an unusually deadly year. Two people died in Ocoee Lake, which flows into the river, and a third man died after falling into the man-made upper section of the river near the Ocoee Whitewater Center. The teenager's death this weekend occurred on the more heavily trafficked middle section of the river.
It is the first death involving a whitewater customer since two men had medical issues in 2014 and 2015, according to Ocoee River Outfitters Association Ryan Cooke.
Before that, the previous drowning came in 2013 when two women died about 24 hours apart. At the time, there had been six deaths on the Middle Ocoee since 1993, according to American Whitewater, a national nonprofit organization focused on preserving rivers and whitewater. The two raised that total to eight. Their deaths were the first on the river since 2011, when two people died on the Upper Ocoee. Before that, the last recorded death of a customer on a commercial raft was in 1998, said Kip Gilliam, a rafting outfitter president at the time.
The Ocoee River is America's most-traveled commercial paddling river.
Update July 25, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.: A family member of the victim confirmed the girl was 15 years old. A friend of the victim and rafting outfitters had previously said the girl was 16, while the GoFundMe page had her age listed as 15. A reference to the friend and rafting outfitter listing her age as 16 has been removed.