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A deadly 24 hours: How two women met their deaths on the Ocoee River rapids

August 27th, 2013 10:06 am by Shelly Bradbury, Chattanooga Times Free Press

A deadly 24 hours: How two women met their deaths on the Ocoee River rapids

A guide with Rolling Thunder is tossed out of his raft while running a rapid on the Ocoee River. Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Grace Hookway kayaked the Ocoee River on Monday, but she skipped the first major rapid in the Middle Ocoee. Because it's the same rapid -- "Grumpy's" -- where two women died in separate incidents Saturday and Sunday after falling out of their professionally guided rafts.

Hookway shook her head as she stood on the side of the river waiting for her kayaking buddy to make it through the stretch, which is right at the beginning of the run.

"The first time I skipped it, I just thought, well it's my first time on the river, let's not do the hardest rapid," she said. "But now, I'll just avoid it. I don't want to be the third one."

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is investigating the deaths of Marnita McGruder, 51, of Rex, Ga., and Katherine Tyler Luna, 36, of Smyrna, Tenn. Six people have died on the Middle Ocoee since 1993, according to American Whitewater, a national nonprofit organization focused on preserving rivers and whitewater. McGruder and Luna bump that up to eight.

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