Bakersville woman dies in rafting accident


Louvella Yelton Arrowood, 64, was on a church rafting trip 


POPLAR — A rafting accident on the Nolichucky River on Saturday, Sept. 12 claimed the life of a Bakersville woman, a state official said. 

Louvella Yelton Arrowood, 64, died in the accident, which happened around 4:30 p.m. near the Nolichucky Gorge area of Mitchell County, just over a mile from the Poplar river access area. 

Arrowood was part of a church group from Odom’s Chapel Freewill Baptist Church in Bakersville. The group was on a commercial rafting trip through USA Raft that left from Erwin, Tennessee. 

Arrowood was one of 14 rafters on the trip, spread across three rafts. 

Arrowood’s raft flipped, putting all of the riders into the water. The two other downstream boats, which had floating safeties, began to recover guests. 

An accident report on the American Whitewater accident database said that Arrowood was “noted to have recirculated in Hungry Jack, close to Ivan (Rock) where she was flushed out and again recirculated in Sixth Drop and was finally able to be recovered.”

William Boone, a North Carolina Wildlife Resources Law Enforcement Division Officer, said Arrowood was under water for about 5-8 minutes. 

After being pulled from the water, Arrowood was taken offshore and CPR efforts began. She was moved up to the train tracks out of the Poplar access area while resuscitation efforts continued.

Arrowood was pronounced dead upon arrival at Poplar. 

Mitchell County Emergency Management Services and members of Bradshaw Fire Department responded to the scene and assisted. 

Mitchell County Sheriff’s Department notified Boone shortly after the incident and he became the lead investigator for the incident. 

The accident report notes that the water level in the area had more than doubled due to recent thunderstorms upstream in the Mount Mitchell area but the conditions were still designated as safe and normal for rafting. All participants were given safety training before the trip and wore helmets and floatation devices.

USA Raft is also conducting its own internal investigation. 

Boone said he still plans to speak to the guide in charge of the trip as his investigation continues. 

“There is nothing, as of now, that is considered criminal,” he said. “It was just an accident.”