A Bingham rafting company that was guiding a whitewater rafting trip down the Dead River in West Forks Plantation on Saturday when a York man was ejected from the raft and died said Sunday it suspects he suffered a health problem.

Meanwhile, the Maine Warden Service continues to investigate the accident that led to the death of Richard Sanders, 67, who was on a trip with North Country Rivers.

In the guided group were five rafts running tightly together, according to Jim Murton of North Country Rivers. All rafters were wearing life jackets, helmets and full wet suits, and each raft was guided by a registered Maine whitewater guide, he said.

The accident occurred during a controlled release of 5,000 cubic feet per second of water and one raft flipped at the bottom of Mile Long Rapid, he said.

The remaining four rafts quickly performed a rescue and all rafters were pulled into rafts, according to Murton. Sanders was not breathing when a guide with EMT certification began CPR and others with EMT certifications assisted. Emergency medical services were contacted and Sanders was evacuated to an ambulance.

Because the swim was short and the rafters were rescued quickly, “some kind of health problem is suspected,” the company statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”

Cpl. John MacDonald, spokesman for the warden Service, said after the accident Saturday that wardens responded to the scene shortly after 2 p.m.

The raft was carrying seven passengers, including a guide, and all passengers were ejected when the raft flipped on Mile Long Rapid, which is on a remote part of the river, he said.

“Some witnesses indicated Sanders might have been submerged in the river for several minutes,” MacDonald said. “He was pulled from the water and lifesaving measures were performed by North Country Rivers employees as well as civilians; those attempts were unsuccessful.”

West Forks Fire and Rescue and Somerset County Sheriff’s Department officials helped at the scene, according to MacDonald.

A Massachusetts man died in May last year while on a commercial rafting trip with North Country Rivers when he fell out of the raft as they were going through a series of rapids on the Dead River.

North Country Rivers is located at 36 Main St. in Bingham.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

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