Cork man (25) dies in kayak accident on Norway river


THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs has offered consular assistance to the family of an Irish man who died in a kayaking accident with friends on a river in central Norway.

Colm Johnson (25), Clancoolmore, Bandon, Co Cork, was kayaking with four Irish friends on Monday at the Ridderspranget ravine on the Sjoa river when he got into difficulty while going over a difficult six-metre drop at about 2.30pm.

Mr Johnson, a student at UCC, was the first of the group, who arrived in Norway only on Saturday, to kayak over the drop.

When he went under the water, his friends tried to rescue him and threw ropes to him from the shore, but they were unable to rescue him.

The emergency services were alerted at about 3pm and a rescue helicopter spotted him in the water at about 3.30pm. However, it was a “very difficult” recovery operation, police in Norway’s Gudbrandsdal district said.

The helicopter was unable to get close to him because of the narrowness of the ravine, nor could another rescue team which saw him in the river.

Mr Johnson’s body was recovered downstream by other kayakers.

Norwegian police were last night awaiting the result of a postmortem to establish whether he died from drowning or from an injury to his head.

On Sunday the group had been kayaking on another part of the same river but along an easier route.

Police described the Sjoa river in the Ridderspranget ravine (known as the Knight’s Leap) in the municipality of Vågå in central Norway as a popular but challenging river for kayakers and said there had been previous accidents on the river.

In 2010 four Ukrainians died in a rafting accident at the ravine, while in 2007 an Estonian man and woman drowned while rafting on the river.

A keen kayaker and a member of the UCC kayaking club, Mr Johnson is survived by his parents, Maurice and Ann Johnson, his brother Alan and his sisters, Niamh and Síle.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be finalised but are expected to take place later this week.