Park rangers work to keep visitors safe after second Little River Canyon drowning in a week

Little River Canyon

Austin Bates was visiting from Indiana when he drowned at Little Canyon River Sunday. He is the second person to die at the park in the last week

Posted: May 25, 2020 10:08 PM

On Monday, WAAY 31 learned the name of the 23-year old Indiana man who drowned at Little River Canyon on Sunday.

Austin Bates died while swimming with friends in the river at Little Falls.

Park Ranger Matt Switzer, told WAAY 31 he and his staff are reminding visitors about the high currents and recommending they stay out of the waterfalls right now. He said with it being so busy, it's a bit harder to reach everyone but they're doing the best they can.

"Very unfortunate incident you know but it's a wild river,"he said.

Switzer said Austin Bates was visiting from Indiana when he went swimming with friends at the Little Falls. He got caught in the current and never resurfaced.

Switzer said rescue crews located Bates quickly but it was already too late. Bates' death is the second at Little River Canyon in about a week.

"it's not a controlled river, right now it's flowing about three times higher then it normally does this time of year, the waters colder and the river can be unforgiving," Switzer said.

"I mean I'm a life guard so I know that you know sometimes some areas of water are not really the best to be in and you just don't know it until your in it and unfortunately it could be too late for some," Evan Yother, who was visiting Little River Canyon Monday, said.

Yother was visiting the park with his family.

He said he sees the signs the park put out to warn guests of high currents....but can understand how those may not be enough.

"It's clearly labeled but I know that people want to get out and swim and sometimes unexpected things happen. You never know what's gonna go on," Yother said.

Switzer said the park is usually always busy Memorial Day weekend, and after the coronavirus lockdown, the park is busier than usual.

"River make look nice on the top, but you don't know what's going on beneath the surface, and we'd prefer you not to find out the hard way," he said.

Switzer said his staff is doing their best to verbally remind visitors about the high currents to try to keep them out of harms way.

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