Sam Grafton, 26, a volunteer firefighter and an avid kayaker, died Saturday on the Snoqualmie River, according to the Gold Bar Firefighters Association. (Gold Bar Firefighters Association)

Sam Grafton, 26, a volunteer firefighter and an avid kayaker, died Saturday on the Snoqualmie River, according to the Gold Bar Firefighters Association. (Gold Bar Firefighters Association)

Gold Bar firefighter identified as kayaking casualty

Samuel Grafton, a white-water kayaker whose feats dazzled on social media, grew up in Snohomish County.

GOLD BAR — A Gold Bar firefighter died in a kayaking accident Saturday near North Bend, according to his fire department.

Samuel Grafton, an avid white-water kayaker, grew up in Snohomish County. He began his journey as a volunteer firefighter, EMT and swiftwater rescue technician in Index in 2009. Later he joined the Gold Bar fire department.

In a Facebook post, his fellow firefighters identified him as the man killed Saturday afternoon while kayaking the Snoqualmie River. He was 26.

“Your friendship to our community and selfless passion for helping others will never be forgotten,” the firefighters’ association wrote in the announcement.

Grafton worked as a technician in hospital emergency rooms in Monroe and Edmonds, according to the Gold Bar fire department. He was described as dynamic, knowledgeable and always learning. He was a trainer, who helped those around him become better at their jobs.

“He definitely had a zest for life,” said Heather Chadwick, who spoke on behalf of the fire department. “He traveled and had a love for being on the water.”

On social media, Grafton had posted jaw-dropping GoPro videos of his daring kayaking adventures in Washington and around the world. His love of extreme paddling was featured in a 2014 video by Leavenworth-based Icicle TV.

Tumwater Solitude: Sam Grafton Kayaking Class V Big Water from Icicle TV on Vimeo.

“It’s not just about adrenaline and trying to make it an extreme sport,” Grafton said on camera. “It’s really about putting yourself in a difficult situation and figuring out how can I keep myself calm, to get through this.”

Gold Bar Assistant Fire Chief Ernie Walters said the fire department was focused on helping the family.

An impromptu memorial kayak float was held Sunday on the Skykomish River. A second event was being scheduled for Saturday in Index.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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