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Current rips backpackers apart

August 17, 2004

On July 7, Ed Lulofs of Azusa went backpacking with Del Hildebrand in Canada's remote Auyuittuq National Park. Nine days later "where most people turn around," the two entered a very hazardous stretch. In this edited excerpt from his online diary (home.apu.edu/~elulofs/bp/trips.html), Lulofs describes what happened on July 16 when "my friend and strong, competent back-country traveler" took a second try at crossing swift-moving water.

"I think he only made it halfway across this second time. He fell down, was washed 10 meters back to near where I was, got a grip on the river bed on his hands and knees. He was only there for seconds and then was carried downstream again. I remember him looking very surprised. He started tumbling head over heels.

"With two [walking] poles and without my pack, I was barely able to cross. I hurried downstream as fast as I could. After a half kilometer, I saw his pack. I was near panic now. I recall ignoring rapids and stepping in chest-deep holes in the stream to reach him.

"I found him in about 6 inches of water. The current had stripped off most of his clothes. He still had one arm through his pack strap. I started pulling him toward shallow water. But the current pulled him out of my grasp and he was going downstream again.

[Lulofs receives help retrieving Hildebrand and administering CPR, but his friend doesn't respond.]

"Of course [his death] was a big shock for me. But I can only imagine the pain Del's family must experience. We say that we accept the risk when we enter these ventures, whether it's outings or just driving down the street. There are always risks in life, but really it is our loved ones who take on the risk of the pain of losing us."

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