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GREAT FALLS, Va. (WUSA9) -- Saturday, July 13, was suppose to be the Great Falls Race on the Potomac. But the kayaking event was canceled. Instead, dozens of kayakers came together to honor and remember 23-year-old Shannon Christy from South Carolina.

The experienced paddler was overtaken by the dangerous rapids on Thursday.

Jason Beakes said "she was a ray of light."

The tight knit community of kayakers returned to Great Falls to remember 23-year-old Shannon Christy.


"Shannon represents us because of what a wonderful human being she is," Beakes said.

"She would always bring a smile to the rivers and it was great to paddle with her," Pat Keller, a friend, said.

Christy, an experienced Class Five whitewater kayaker, was practicing for the weekend race on Thursday when she encountered trouble in the first drop of the rapids called 'Grace Under Pressure.'

She was out of her boat and got swept into a known deadly section of the run and went under.

The group says the last death of a kayaker in this part of Great Falls was nearly a decade ago in the same spot called 'Subway.'


Fellow kayakers put their lives on the line to try and save her. Jeff McIntyre, kayaker, said "it was nothing short of heroic effort."

But the catastrophic current, pinned her under.

The churning rapids were so forceful it ripped off her flotation device and helmet.

Dozens of kayakers honored her the best way they know how, on the water, gathering at the bottom of the rapids, tossing flowers toward the place where she died.

Ray Kessler, another kayaker, said "a lot of people are affected. She was a great paddler a great person. A lot of people are sad you can see how many people are out celebrating her life."

Kayakers may not look at the dangerous yet exciting spot quite the same and despite the tragedy, paddlers say they'll continue to come.

Pat Keller said "there is danger, but what we receive from playing in the waters and dancing in the elements so much more powerful than us, is worth going out, to me, over and over again."

Pat Keller says he went out onto the dangerous waters just yesterday.

"I couldn't help but think Shannon's still out there, still playful, still smiling upon us. She gave me that ender yesterday. To Shannon!"

The Great Falls Race has been going on for nearly 30 years. They haven't decided if they'll reschedule or just race next year.


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