Kayaker Who Died Was Official With National Whitewater Organization

Sep 20, 2012

The kayaker who died Wednesday in the Franconia Notch State Park was the Northeast Stewardship director for the American Whitewater organization.

Lincoln police chief Theodore Smith identified him as Alan Panebaker, 29, of Montpelier, Vermont.

Panebaker was an experienced whitewater kayaker whose work responsibilities ranged from “state and federal policy affecting rivers” to “community recreation planning.”

He had a law degree, a masters degree in Environmental Law and Policy from the Vermont Law School and a B.A in Journalism from the University of Montana.

Panebaker was kayaking Wednesday morning with two companions on the West Branch of the Pemigewasset River.

Heavy rains the night before had increased the flow of the river as it passed through a narrow, rocky gorge near the Pine Sentinel Bridge.

Smith said the trio was well equipped, including wearing wet suits.  Witnesses told police Panebaker’s kayak - hit a boulder.

“They saw the kayak go under and then the kayak apparently came up without him," Smith said.

Smith said Panebaker’s companions tried to rescue him while the witnesses called for help.

Panebaker’s body was recovered downstream.

Mark Singleton is the executive director of American Whitewater.

He said Panebaker was “smart, strong and capable. He represented the future of river stewardship in the northeast” and the group is stunned by his death.

To see a video taken by Panebaker go here.