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Rescuers were unable to resuscitate the 69-year-old, who was on a tubing trip with grandchildren.
PARKER MICHELS-BOYCE | The (Lynchburg) News & Advance
Emergency responders confer at the scene where a woman was pulled from the James River in Amherst County on Monday.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
A family tubing trip turned deadly on the James River Monday afternoon.
Paramedics were alerted about 1 p.m. to a potential drowning on the north bank of the river, near the east end of Percival’s Island downstream from Lynchburg.
When they arrived, they found 69-year-old Hope F. Stoeckel, of Georgetown, Del., but were unable to resuscitate her, according to an Amherst County Sheriff’s Office news release.
Authorities believe she slipped out of an inner tube and was unable to right herself while on a trip with the James River Float Company.
Company owner Mason Basten said Stoeckel was on an unguided float with her husband and two grandchildren.
The grandchildren made their way back to the float company, which is on the Amherst County side of the river just downstream from the John Lynch Bridge, and told employees their grandparents had fallen off their tubes, Basten said.
A company guide took a boat downstream, found Stoeckel and her husband and took them to shore, where he performed CPR until paramedics arrived, Basten said. Stoeckel was wearing a life jacket, he said.
Her body has been sent to the medical examiner’s office in Roanoke.
The company had called off float trips from Thursday to Saturday last week because of high waters and swift currents, Basten said.
Float trips resumed Sunday, and a group had gone out without incident earlier Monday, he added.
The float company cancels trips when the river flows above 7,000 cubic feet per second, Basten said.
According to preliminary reports from the U.S. Geological Survey, the James River at Holcomb Rock measured 6,770 cubic feet per second at 1 p.m. on Monday. Holcomb Rock is the closest upriver reporting station to Lynchburg but is at least 12 miles upstream from the site of the drowning.
Late Monday afternoon, the James River Float Company issued a news release saying company officials are not yet certain of the chain of events leading to Stoeckel’s death and to speculate at this point would be “inappropriate.”
“We at James River Float Company are deeply devastated and our hearts and prayers go out to the family,” the release states.
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