Rafting mishap that killed tourist ‘an accident’

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Saturday, July 19, 2014


CAGAYAN DE ORO -- After more than a month of evidence-gathering, Task Force Rapids (TFR) finally revealed that the whitewater rafting mishap that killed a 26-year-old nurse in the Cagayan de Oro River was an accident.

“It was strictly an accident and you cannot really question that anymore,” TFR consultant Dorothy Jean Pabayo told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro on Friday.

The mishap killed Aizza Calipusan Balbin, a tourist from Loboc, Bohol who failed to float after the rubber raft she was riding capsized as it neared the end of the 14-rapid course. [READ: Tourist missing as raft capsizes in Cagayan de Oro River]

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The incident prompted the City Government to create the TFR, the body tasked with overseeing the local whitewater rafting industry.

Prior to TFR’s decision, the Department of Trade Industry (DTI), the City Tourism Office (CTO) and the Oro Association of Rafters (OAR) conducted separate investigations to determine what really happened on June 13 that claimed Balbin’s life.

Results were submitted to TFR after a few weeks of probing the area, checking the documents, and doing a go-over of other issues related to the incident.

“Sometimes, knowing that whitewater rafting is an extreme sport than a plain fun activity, tourists must be careful always. Sometimes kasi eh, they (tourists) do not listen,” Pabayo said.

On Friday, the TFR findings were presented through a three-page report to the media, City Government officials and the six rafting operators.

In the report were the TFR-drafted guidelines for the city’s rafting operations.

Pabayo said there is already the need for the task force to draft immediately the guidelines even though it has not been finalized yet.

In the paper, the outfitters also presented their suggestions and comments on the further operations of the rafting community in the future.

Chisum Factura, the co-owner of Kagay Journey-White Water Rafting and Kayaking (Kagay), said that one of the things that company was looking into is the support of the City Government.

Kagay was the rafting operator who owned the rubber raft that capsized.

“This is the Cagayan de Oro tourism that we are talking about here. Whatever happens to the [rafting] community will immediately affect the city tourism. At least now, that matters are ironed out, although not totally, the community will definitely improve,” Factura told reporters.

He added the rafting community is preparing for the 2016 world whitewater rafting competition where it will bring to the city the international whitewater rafting scene.

“We have a class-3 type of river. Mark Joffe (head of the International Rafting Federation) and I scouted the area in the upper part of the river and he even declared Cagayan de Oro River is a good avenue for world rafting competitions,” Factura said.

Factura asked the City Government to continually support them in whatever endeavor they are going to take since everything will be for the betterment of the local tourism.

“I hope they continue whatever they are starting now. We need that to uphold the rafting community and for us to improve better,” he added. (Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 19, 2014.

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