Some question why kayakers launched into windy lake


by Katie Utehs &

Posted on April 3, 2012 at 5:17 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 3 at 7:39 PM

SPOKANE-- Some people are saying a Gonzaga student's death during a guided kayaking trip could have been prevented.

Investigators said emergency crews got the call around 12:04 p.m.  They said three people in a group of seven tipped over on the south end of the lake.  One was able to make it to shore but the remaining two needed to be rescued.

Investigators believe the windy conditions and rough waves caused the kayaks to tip over. 

Christopher J. Gormley was airlifted from the scene by Medstar to a Spokane Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The trip was contracted for around 300 dollars with Spokane's Park and Recreation Department.
The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for the Palouse on Sunday, with gusts predicted up to 50 mph.  Some are wondering why the guided kayak trip launched onto the lake.

Local fisherman Charles Connor was at Rock Lake Sunday morning. "I obviously decided to not launch my boat it was definitely dangerous conditions." On the drive to the lake he encountered rain, wind and sleet. 

Connor says, "It is an 8 mile wind tunnel and it can easily pick up and there's not any safe landings."

The Whitman County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident and why the kayakers launched in the windy conditions.

Marlene Feist with the City Of Spokane says, "The guide is suppose to use his or her best discretion in determining if it's safe to be doing whatever they're doing."

Gonzaga University and the City of Spokane say they will review the incident after the sheriff's report is finished.

We called The Department of Fish and Wildlife about the possibility of installing warning signs at Rock Lake.  The property surrounding the lake is privately owned and leased by DFW year to year so installing signs is an issue of jurisdiction.