Missing kayaker found, brought to safety

By: Jenna Nielsen, Journal Staff Writer
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A Colorado kayaker was brought to safety Tuesday afternoon after his kayak flipped along the North Fork of the American River over the weekend, causing him to spend two nights in the canyon. Brian Kelly, 25, went kayaking with two others Sunday, when they attempted to navigate the North Fork’s dangerous Class IV and V rapids past Euchre Bar, Placer County Sheriff’s officials said Tuesday. “Kelly’s friends saw his kayak going down the river, but they didn’t see him,” said Dena Erwin, spokeswoman for the Placer County Sheriff’s Department. “They tried to search for him on their own, but were unable to because of the extremely rugged terrain.” Kelly’s friends saw his kayak heading downriver without him at about noon, and contacted the Placer County Sheriff’s Department at 10 p.m. Sunday, as soon as they got out of the canyon, Erwin said. Sheriff’s swift-water and whitewater experts began searching the area by helicopter Monday morning, but determined that the raging waters were too dangerous to enter. The air search continued throughout the day, but Kelly was never located, Erwin said. Late Monday, a group of local rafting and kayaking experts sent two kayakers and two rafts into the river where they found Kelly sitting at the river’s edge, safe and not injured. “They are private citizens and it is a public river,” Erwin said. “That is what allowed them to go in there.” The rafters stayed with Kelly, and then took him to safety in a raft, arriving at the Iowa Hill Bridge at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Kelly’s parents, who flew in from Colorado Monday, were at the bridge when he arrived. Kelly did not require medical treatment, Placer County Sheriff’s officials said. Sheriff’s Search and Rescue coordinator, Lt. Rich Tornberg, said several groups are credited with rescuing Kelly. They are Wilderness Adventures in Coloma, American Whitewater, a national organi-zation dedicated to improving whitewater access and safety, and Rescue Three, a whitewater safety training and certification group. The Journal’s Jenna Nielsen can be reached at or comment on this story at