“We’re viewing this as an unfortunate accident,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Ernie Stewart, adding he doesn't anticipate any criminal investigation stemming from Mellon’s death.
According to the sheriff’s office, Mellon and two other men were on a three-day rafting trip when they reached Redwood Falls, about 12 miles upriver from Orick, at 4 p.m. Friday. There, Mellon and one of his companions got out of the boat. The plan was for them to set up safety lines to help the third rafter navigate the falls. The boat made it safely down the falls, but Mellon got snared in one of the lines and pulled into the water. Mellon’s companions found him 15 to 20 minutes later but he’d already drowned.
Mellon’s two companions loaded his body on the raft and transported it to Orick, where they called police shortly before 11 p.m.
Stewart said Mellon's companions were locals, and that it appears they did what they could to navigate the falls safely. "This is just a horrible accident," he said.
The full sheriff’s office press release is posted below:
On 02/13/15 at about 2252 hours, deputies were dispatched to the area of the Redwood Creek Bridge in Orick for a report of a possible drowning that occurred. Deputies arrived on scene at about 2330 hours, and located a white Ford truck with a boat and trailer on the river bar northwest of the Redwood Creek Bridge. Two subjects reported their friend had drowned and was currently in the boat on the trailer.
The victim and his two companions started their three day rafting trip at Stover Bridge on Redwood Creek and planned on rafting down the river over the next three days. At approximately 1600hrs., the group reached Redwood Falls, 12 miles from Orick. The victim and one companion exited the boat and proceeded down river, while the other companion negotiated the falls. The victim and his companion set up a series of safety ropes to assist in catching the boat if it didn’t make it through the falls safely. The boat made it safely through the falls, but the victim was caught in the safety rope and unable to free himself. Once the companions were able to reach the victims location in the water 15-20 minutes had gone by. When the companions reached the victim he was deceased.
Due to the remoteness of the area, the companions were unable to notify the authorities at the time. The two companions transported the victim, by boat, the remaining distance to Orick, where they contacted law enforcement.
Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.
The Humboldt County Coroner’s Office has identified the man who drowned in Redwood Creek after a rafting accident Friday afternoon as 33-year-old Jonathan Walsh Mellon, of Eureka.