Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Body of Kern River Kayaker Recovered After 43 days in Water
By admin
Published 8 months ago on
August 2, 2023

Share

William Hoxie is finally going home.

Lois Henry

Lois Henry portrait

SJV Water

The accomplished 26-year-old kayaker died June 14 while navigating the historic high flows on the upper Kern River.

He was kayaking with several others but got separated on one side of the river. When he tried to cross back, his craft was impaled by a submerged log and he was pinned in the river.

The force of the water kept Hoxie’s boat and his body at that spot for 43 days.

Tulare County Sheriff’s Office deputies in the swift water rescue unit tried to retrieve Hoxie’s body by boat and had helicopters on site several times. But until July 27, the water was just too high, said Lt. Kevin Kemmerling.

A Freak Accident

William Hoxie
William Hoxie (legacy.com)

Deputies were finally able to reach Hoxie’s boat and retrieve his body shortly before noon Thursday after flows had dropped to half what they were when Hoxie died.

The kayak had broken in two after being pummeled by water for more than a month.

“He’s going home,” said Tom Moore, owner of Kernville rafting company Sierra South. He said Hoxie had come to the area just a few days before the accident, attracted by the big water. Hoxie is from a boating family and grew up kayaking on his home river, the Trinity, according to his obituary on Legacy.com.

Hoxie’s family declined to be interviewed for this story, according to a family spokesman.

“He knew what he was doing,” Moore said of William Hoxie. “He was doing everything right. This was just a freak, freak accident.”

High Flows Previously Prevented Recovery

Kemmerling said deputies got word of the accident at 5 p.m. June 14, but with flows at 5,000 cubic feet per second, they couldn’t get near Hoxie’s kayak. They came back the next day, and the next and the next.

“There was just no safe way to get in,” he said.

In fact, flows on the upper Kern continued to increase following the accident, all the way to 7,600 cfs, according to Kemmerling.

So, the sheriff’s office waited, posting deputies on the road above where the river held Hoxie’s body and kept them onsite 24/7, Kemmerling said.

In the last week of June, flows had abated to about 4,500 cfs, and deputies launched a rescue attempt. By that time, the bow of Hoxie’s red kayak was just visible above the roiling waves.

William Hoxie’s kayak was broken apart by the force of the Kern River. (SJV Water/Lois Henry)

‘We Almost Lost Three Guys’

Deputies strung a high line across the churning river and used it to inch a rescue boat toward Hoxie. But the rapids quickly slung their boat around, putting it crosswise to the current. In an instant, water was gushing over one side, threatening to pull it under.

“We almost lost three guys,” Kemmerling said.

The team quickly rearranged their weight, freeing the side that was swamped, and pulled themselves to safety.

Moore and several other local boaters were on hand during that attempt. He said the Tulare County deputies wanted to try again but the long-time Kern River boaters advised against it.

Eight Kern River Deaths This Year

When flows started to drop below 3,000 cfs, deputies decided to try another rescue. This time, they were successful.

After they recovered Hoxie’s body and Kemmerling’s crew was back to shore, he shook his head.

“This was the most difficult rescue I’ve seen in my 25-year career,” he said.

With the long Labor Day weekend approaching, he had a message for the anticipated throngs of visitors: “Stay out of the river. Please.

There have been eight deaths in the Kern River so far this year, seven in the Kern County portion and one in the Tulare County stretch.

About SJV Water

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.

Kern River high water
Rescuers couldn’t reach William Hoxie’s boat in June when this photo was taken. (Tulare County SO)

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Sacramento Gave Homeless Camp a Lease as an Experiment. Here’s What Happened.

DON'T MISS

Merced Supervisors Accused of ‘Triple Crown Race’ of Failures Amid Talk of Closing Fire Stations

DON'T MISS

Teacher Appreciation Week Surprises That Educators Will Love

DON'T MISS

A Mission of Mercy, Then a Fatal Strike: How an Aid Convoy in Gaza Became Israel’s Target

DON'T MISS

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

DON'T MISS

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

DON'T MISS

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

DON'T MISS

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

DON'T MISS

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

DON'T MISS

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

UP NEXT

Merced Supervisors Accused of ‘Triple Crown Race’ of Failures Amid Talk of Closing Fire Stations

UP NEXT

Teacher Appreciation Week Surprises That Educators Will Love

UP NEXT

A Mission of Mercy, Then a Fatal Strike: How an Aid Convoy in Gaza Became Israel’s Target

UP NEXT

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

UP NEXT

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

UP NEXT

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

UP NEXT

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

UP NEXT

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

UP NEXT

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

UP NEXT

Israeli Settlers Rampage Through a West Bank Village, Killing 1 Palestinian and Wounding 25

A Mission of Mercy, Then a Fatal Strike: How an Aid Convoy in Gaza Became Israel’s Target

4 hours ago

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

15 hours ago

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

16 hours ago

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

17 hours ago

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

18 hours ago

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

18 hours ago

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

18 hours ago

Israeli Settlers Rampage Through a West Bank Village, Killing 1 Palestinian and Wounding 25

21 hours ago

US Intelligence Finding Shows China Surging Equipment Sales to Russia to Help War Effort in Ukraine

21 hours ago

From Tragedy to Triumph: The Land Before Time Litter’s Journey

22 hours ago

Sacramento Gave Homeless Camp a Lease as an Experiment. Here’s What Happened.

When Sacramento changed its plan to demolish a homeless encampment on a vacant lot on Colfax Street, instead offering the homeless occupants...

2 hours ago

2 hours ago

Sacramento Gave Homeless Camp a Lease as an Experiment. Here’s What Happened.

3 hours ago

Merced Supervisors Accused of ‘Triple Crown Race’ of Failures Amid Talk of Closing Fire Stations

3 hours ago

Teacher Appreciation Week Surprises That Educators Will Love

4 hours ago

A Mission of Mercy, Then a Fatal Strike: How an Aid Convoy in Gaza Became Israel’s Target

15 hours ago

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

16 hours ago

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

17 hours ago

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

18 hours ago

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend