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August 5, 2016
Oroville Mercury Register
April 28, 1952
Sailor Drowns While Shooting River Rapids

Dramatic Scene Witnessed By Chico Group: Body Seen Floating

A thrillseeking sailor’s dream of adventure cost him his life in the cold, churning waters of the Feather river near Oroville yesterday. The sailor, Edwin Joseph Waugh 25, of Albany, N. Y., perished in an attempt to shoot the rapids on a stretch of river five miles east of here. William Boser Jr., 19, of Long Island, N. Y., a shipmate aboard the USS General G. M. Randall, now at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, survived the express-train speed dash through whirlpools, rapids and jagged rocks.

Book Inspired Sailor

He told Sheriff Larry Gillick that Waugh had read a book describing “white water” exploits in the kayak, a canoe used principal by Eskimos. Waugh’s imagination was so completely captured by the thrilling account that he purchased a kayak-type boat when his ship called at Germany port, and on the two week ends previous to yesterday had “shot the rapids" on the Russian river near Guerneyville. Waugh negotiated one five-mile stretch alone, beaching the collapsible rubber-hulled boat at the five mile bridge at Hansel’s. He launched there with Boser and another shipmate, Ernest S. Wilson, who was driving Waugh’s car.

Waitress Warned Pair

Both Wilson and Boser recalled after the tragedy that the waitress “told us we were crazy to try to ride the river in Waugh’s boat.” Loser had refused to accompany Waugh in the first descent and he quoted Waugh as telling him, “I’m glad you didn’t go as the bow took water and if we had both been in it would have turned over.” When Waugh clamored into the boat again at the bridge, Boser said he “didn’t like the looks of the river,” but got in also. “I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want him to go alone,” Boser told Sheriff Larry Gillick. “The current pressed on the boat from both sides and held us in midstream. He kept asking me how deep the water was where I was sitting, and I told him about two inches. “The current was so strong that after about 1 minute the boat turned over, but it continued to float.”

Ed Still Hung On

“Waugh yelled to me, ‘Hold on we’ll get out of it’ I wasn’t frightened, then we hit a whirlpool so strong that it sucked both of us and the boat under. When I fought my way up again, I was scared. Ed was holding onto the boat, and I managed to swim to him. Our Mae West lifejackets helped us stay afloat. “We hit another whirlpool and came out all right, and then we were sucked under the third time. When I came up, I saw Ed try to shout something to me, but I couldn’t hear him above the roar of the water. Then he went under. He was too far away for me to help him.” The current continued to sweep Boser along. Once he tried to swim ashore “near a wall” (the China wall). He saw a group on the bank and waved to them, he said, then manage to reach the shore on the south bank.

He Collapses On Bank

A miner, Ed Dushole, who had heard Boser’s cries for help, raced to the shore and helped him land. Then Boser collapsed. Dushole took the sailor to his cabin, gave him hot coffee and put him to bed. He was transferred to the county hospital . A party of Chico State students, authorities learned, after seeing Boser they had seen Waugh’s body drifting downstream. One of them, Larry DeLong, of West Fifth street, Chico, hailed a passing highway patrol car on the upper Thermalito bridge, and the patrolman relayed the information to the sheriff’s office. It Was A Lark to Them Boser said that he and Waugh passed jokes back and forth during the first few minutes of their ordeal. They were confident, he said, that they would come to a smooth stretch of water where they could work their way to shore. “But the current was too swift, and always pulled us into another set of rapids,” the tired and dejected Bosder commented. He said at one time they succeeded in righting the boat again, and Waugh climbed in and attempted to row them toward shore. However his efforts were in vain, and a short time later the boat was capsized again. The boat was not recovered.