Local man drowns while canoeing the Chattooga River

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By Patrick Yost


A 64-year-old Madison man drowned while canoeing on the Chattooga River in South Carolina on Monday, July 15. Ralph Neal Head was pronounced dead at the scene by Oconee County, S.C. Coroner Karl Addis after the 5:40 p.m. accident.

According to Addis, Head was in a canoe by himself when the boat capsized. Head was with a friend during the incident, Addis said, and the friend reported that he saw Head floating in the water and apparently under no distress. However, Addis said, when the friend reached Head he had gone under the fast-flowing current and could not clear the water. Addis said investigators believe Head’s legs and feet were caught in an undercut in the river.

“The current was just too strong,” Addis said.

Head was wearing both an approved life vest and helmet at the time of the incident.

A post mortem verified that Head died from drowning, Addis said.

Head’s death on the Chattooga River marks the second drowning death on the river this year, Addis said. In June another man died after he was swept overboard during a commercial rafting trip down the river.

Head was a Marine Corps veteran who earned a Forestry degree from the University of Georgia. According to his obituary, Head was an avid outdoorsman and an active volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. The family received friends last Saturday at A.E. Carter Funeral home and a service was held Sunday in the chapel at A.E. Carter Funeral Home with internment at Sandy Creek Baptist Church Cemetery. The family requested memorials to be made to Habitat for Humanity.

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