Assistant Managing Editor
A German exchange student staying with a host family in Wapakoneta was killed Tuesday on an annual rafting trip in West Virginia.
Luca Kötterheinrich, 16, was on a commercial rafting trip on the Lower New River at the Keeney Rapids, when he was ejected at approximately 2:40 p.m.
Robin Snyder, chief of visitor services for the New River Gorge National River, said Kötterheinrich was ejected from the raft along a middle rapid and hit a known undercurrent rock.
“It is a known rock, a dangerous rock,” Snyder said. “Commercial rafting companies employ skilled and trained people to avoid rocks like this, but sometimes a raft flips over and someone is thrown out. It is a sad day.”
She said CPR was performed on Kötterheinrich for 30 to 45 minutes after he was pulled out of the river. An ambulance transported him to Plateau Medical Center, in Oak Hill W. Va. at approximately 3:50 p.m. and shortly after he was pronounced dead.
Rangers with the National Park Service are investigating his death, Snyder said.
Kötterheinrich was staying with Dave and Carolyn Campbell since his arrival in Wapakoneta on Aug. 3. He and a group of six other teen boys from Lengerich, Germany, were planning on staying in the area until Aug. 24. They were scheduled to come back today from the rafting trip they left for Monday.
Carolyn Campbell said she had told Kötterheinrich to make sure to wear his sunscreen and a T-shirt so he wouldn’t get burnt like he did at the Wapakoneta WaterPark.
“You just never know,” Campbell said. “It is tough for all of us. I can’t think about being in his mother’s shoes.”
She described Kötterheinrich as the “ring leader” of the group of students visiting this year. She said he enjoyed music and dancing and played the trumpet and piano.
“He was a sweet kid,” Campbell said. “He was a typical high school kid and was tickled to be here.”
She said since Kötterheinrich was here he had spent a lot of time playing basketball at the Wapakoneta YMCA and had spent hours looking at airplanes at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
The Campbells, who have hosted exchange students from Wapakoneta’s Sister City in Germany since 1995, also had hosted Kötterheinrich’s older brother in 2009, part of Luca’s inspiration for wanting to make the trip to the United States himself.
“He heard his brother talk about it and wanted to come, too,” Campbell said.
She said the exchange students spent time in New York City before arriving in Wapakoneta and they were looking forward to both the rafting trip, which has been a highlight of their visits every year, and attending motorcycle races in Indianapolis this weekend.
The exchange students are returning to Ohio today and then making plans to head home to Germany as soon as possible.
“They were all good friends from the same hometown,” Campbell said.
At this time, there are no plans for any local memorials here.