Former Tidings reporter dies in kayaking accident

LINCOLN, N.H. — A kayaker who died on a dangerous stretch of New Hampshire's West Pemigewasset River has been identified as a former Ashland Daily Tidings reporter.

Alan Panebaker, 29, of Montpelier died Wednesday morning while kayaking in Franconia Notch State Park. An experienced kayaker, he was with two others when his kayak overturned south of the Flume Gorge and became trapped underwater. Authorities said heavy rains the previous night created dangerous conditions on many of the state's rivers.

Lincoln police were called just after 10:30 a.m. and sent both police and fire crews with water rescue equipment to the scene. Witnesses told police two of the kayaker's in Panebaker's group made it over the falls near the Centennial Pine Bridge but Panebaker's kayak struck a boulder and flipped over.

Panebaker had been under water for about half an hour before authorities arrived and it took another half an hour to retrieve his body.

Since July, Panebaker had worked as the northeast stewardship director for the American Whitewater organization. Before that, he worked for the news organization, which described him as a bright and talented man with a keen sense of humor.

Gov. Peter Shumlin also expressed his condolences Thursday.

''My heart goes out to his friends, family, and the VTDIGGER staff,'' he said. ''Alan was a fair, thorough and informative reporter, and always had a smile for his fellow journalists and the politicians he covered. He will be missed.''

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