CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 15 June) — Mayor Oscar Moreno is mulling the suspension of all white water rafting and kayaking adventure tours along the Cagayan de Oro River following the accident Friday that left one tourist still missing.
Moreno said local tourist outfitter agencies that provide rafting and kayaking should come up with measures to make white water rafting, Cagayan de Oro’s major tourist attraction, safer.
“What assurance do I have that this will not happen again and if there is none, I will have to suspend despite the profits this industry is making. Life is so much precious than economic rewards,” Moreno said.
[caption id="attachment_56433" align="alignleft" width="640"] HOW SHE FELL. Mark Jeoffe of the International Rafting Federation on Saturday, June 15, 2014, explains how the inflatable raft with the missing tourist Aizza Calipusan Balbin, capsized after hitting a huge boulder along the Cagayan de Oro River. Beside him is Mayor Oscar Moreno who is mulling to suspend all white water rafting tours along the river. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo[/caption]
Coast Guard divers joined the search Saturday for Aizza Calipusan Balbin, 26, a registered nurse and a resident of Loboc, Bohol, who remained missing a day after their inflatable raft capsized in one of the rapids in Cagayan de Oro River in Sitio Makahambus, Barangay Bayanga.
White water rafting continued Saturday, with adventure seekers passing through the area where rescuers continued the search for the missing AIzza.
Moreno said the current in the Cagayan de Oro River where the boat capsized was too strong that only expert technical divers can search the area.
“Wala na jud si Aizza (Aizza is gone), I kept on looking for her as soon as I came up from the water,” Patrick Agus 29, a resident of Cagayan de Oro narrated.
[caption id="attachment_56441" align="alignleft" width="640"] SURVIVOR. Patrick Agus, 29, describes how he survived when their inflatable raft capsized after hitting a huge boulder along the Cagayan de Oro River Friday. But one of his companions, identified as Aizza Calipusan Balbin, 26, a registered nurse and a native of Loboc, Bohol remains missing as of Saturday June 15, 2014. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo[/caption]
Agus said he, Balbin and two other companions went directly to Barangay Mambuaya as soon as Aizza arrived here Friday morning.
He said he wanted Balbin to experience the white water adventure and contracted local outfitter, Kagay Journey-White Water Rafting and Kayaking, for a beginner’s course.
Local outfitters offer two courses for the white water adventure tours — the Beginner Course and the Extreme Course.
Agus said they were near the end of the “Beginner Course” when their inflatable raft slammed into a huge boulder in one of the dangerous sections of the Cagayan de River called “Bonsai Area.”
“The boat was thrown up from the water after it hit the boulder. Aiza who was sitting on the right side of the boat was the first to fall into the raging waters,” Agus said.
Agus said he and their two companions including their boat guide also fell into the water.
“Everything went dark and I thought I will die. After a few moments, I saw a light that got bigger. Then I was out of the water,” he said.
Mark Jeoffe, head of the International Rafting Federation said Aizza and Agus may have fallen into a labyrinth of tunnels under the boulder.
[caption id="attachment_56443" align="alignleft" width="640"] BUSINESS AS USUAL. Tourists enjoy their adventure in the Cagayan de Oro river on Saturday, June 14, apparently unaware of the ongoing search for the body of a missing tourist who fell into the raging waters on Friday. MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas[/caption]
Jeoffe went with the rescuers to help find the missing Aizza on Friday and yesterday.
“These tunnels suck Aizza and Agus after they fell. I think Aizza is still down there under that boulder. Agus is lucky he got out alive,” he said.
Jeoffe said rescuers tried to snatch Aizza using ropes. Failing that they sent in the Coast Guard divers to see if they can brave the raging waters.
He said the divers found that the entrance of the labyrinth was filled with broken tree limbs, garbage and all sorts of debris.
“A strong river undercurrent is one of the worst places to have an accident. You will not last more than five minutes,” Jeoffe said.
Mayor Moreno said there is a strong need for a government body to regulate the river rafting and kayaking activities along the Cagayan de Oro River.
Moreno said the past ordinances passed left the regulating of the white water rafting activities to the local outfitter agencies.
“There is really a need to see what we can do to regulate this industry,” he said. (Froilan Gallado / MindaNews)