By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
A prominent Crescent City physician is missing after a kayaking accident in Siskiyou County Tuesday.
Dr. Wayne R. Hawthorne, 48, who practiced family health from his office on Marshall Street, was reported missing after his kayak overturned and became lodged beneath a rock on the Salmon River, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities have not announced if Hawthorne is presumed dead, but a search for the physician Tuesday was unsuccessful, and a search on Wednesday was suspended at the request of family members.
Siskiyou County Sergeant Dave Nicholson said he believed Hawthorne may still be pinned beneath the rock where the accident occurred.
"There's a problem with the water level. It's kind of dangerous out there with the current," said son Benjamin Hawthorne, 17, who was with his father when the accident occurred. "We want to wait for the water level to drop. We'll wait and see what happens."
Siskiyou authorities said they were prepared to use dynamite to get beneath the rock.
"They had considered blasting the rock for better access, but family members suggested it be called off because of the swift water and dangerous conditions in the area," said Spokesperson Susan Gravenkamp. "They felt it would risk the lives of officers to continue."
According to Siskiyou authorities, Hawthorne was kayaking with his son, Benjamin, and friend, Mike Samson, 52, of Hornbrook, when the accident occurred at approximately 3 p.m. Tuesday. Dr. Hawthorne's kayak overturned upstream of a large rock, and it became lodged beneath it in the water.
The younger Hawthorne and Samson attempted to retrieve Dr. Hawthorne from the water, but they eventually lost sight of him.
Siskiyou County's Dive Team and volunteers from the county's Search and Rescue Unit were later called in, along with rescue helicopters out of Ashland, Ore., and from the California Highway Patrol.
Volunteers were able to see the kayak pinned under the rock, but they were unable to see if Dr. Hawthorne was there.
Sutter Coast Hospital CEO John Menaugh said Hawthorne, the former chief of staff at the hospital, is a well-respected professional in the community.
"He's an excellent physician, very quiet and professional. You really can't replace a man like that," Menaugh said yesterday.
A native of Santa Ana, Calif., Hawthorne and his family moved to Del Norte County in 1987, family members said yesterday.
Hawthorne's family said a trust fund is being set up at Six Rivers National Bank in his name. The account number was not available yesterday.
Hawthorne's office manager said his office is closed until further notice, with office associates Dr. James Morrow and Shellie Gamache receiving patients again at a time yet to be announced.