CHEROKEE, N.C. — An Cleveland Heights woman drowned while kayaking Thursday in the Oconaluftee River along North Carolina’s western border, according to Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials.
Park officials said companions of the kayaker notified park rangers around 2:15 p.m. that she disappeared underwater and didn't resurface, news outlets reported. Officials identified the kayaker as Megan Thompson, 34, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
Witnesses said Thompson floated over swift rapids before being pinned between a fallen tree and the river bank. It took emergency responders about 40 minutes to free Thompson and bring her to shore, where she was pronounced dead, park officials said.
This was the first fatality in the park this year and the 61st drowning on record, park officials said.
Thompson served as the Cleveland Opera Theater's director of marketing and public relations. The organization posted a tribute on its Facebook page.
"Megan was a warm and generous collaborator whose passion for the arts, arts education, and community engagement enriched the lives of thousands throughout Northeast Ohio," the post said of Thompson. "We mourn the loss of our incredibly talented collaborator and friend. Megan will be greatly missed. A funeral service will be offered this week for family in NC. Details about a service in Cleveland will be shared as they are available."
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