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Weird Kayaker Accident in S. Oregon

FYI

Drowning death is under investigation

By JILL BRISKEY

ASHLAND - Investigators aren't sure what caused a Medford man, who was reputed to be a strong swimmer and experienced rafter, to drown in Emigrant Lake Saturday while kayaking.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Department has launched an investigation into the death of Bruce Malcom Hall II, 30, of Medford, which may take several days.

According to Jackson County Marine deputy Wally Ramsey, witnesses reported seeing Hall struggling to swim to shore after flipping his kayak at 4:15 p.m.

Ramsey said Hall had arrived minutes before the accident took place and was kayaking by himself.

He was not wearing a flotation device, Ramsey said. Oregon law requires kayakers and boaters to at least have a flotation device on board.

Hall had paddled about 50 feet from shore in a location called The Meadows - a popular swimming and fishing cove about 300 yards in length, Ramsey said.

"Two witnesses said he called for help twice," Ramsey said. "There were between 20 or 30 people who saw the accident."

Although two swimmers rushed to Hall's aid, Ramsey said they were unable to reach him in time.

The swimmers' attempts to find Hall after he slipped under the surface were also unsuccessful, since the water was murkey; visibility was measured in inches, Ramsey added.

Members of the Jackson County Dive Team found Hall's body at 7:30 p.m. in 11 feet of water.

Investigators could not find any identification on the body but located a key inside Hall's swim trunks that unlocked a van parked nearby.

The van belonged to Hall's employer, who later helped sheriff's deputies with identification. Hall's dog, which was there, was taken to Jackson County Animal Control and will remain there until it can be claimed by a friend, Ramsey added.

Ramsey said it is unclear what caused Hall - whose friends say he was a strong swimmer and experienced rafter - to get in trouble in the water.

"There were no indications, that I saw, that he was tangled up in anything," Ramsey said. "It doesn't look like hypothermia played a factor."

The water temperature in Emigrant Lake at the time of Hall's death was 61 degrees, Ramsey said. The air temperature was an estimated 80 degrees.

"This man would be alive today if he would have been wearing his life jacket," Ramsey said. "It's a shame ... I just don't think anybody is hearing the lesson we're teaching."

Hall is the first person to drown in a Jackson County lake this year.