VTDigger.org regrets to report that Alan Panebaker drowned on Wednesday, Sept. 19, doing what he loved best — whitewater kayaking.
Alan was an avid paddler who graduated from Vermont Law School last year and recently worked as a VTDigger.org reporter. In July, he took a job with American Whitewater, a river conservation group.
Every chance Alan got, he found a way to hit the whitewater. Nearly every weekend, he explored the St. Lawrence River near Montreal or went kayaking on Vermont and New Hampshire waterways.
Yesterday was no exception. Tuesday night heavy rainfall swelled the Pemigewasset River in New Hampshire, and the next morning Alan went kayaking with friends in a remote section of the Flume Gorge.
Alan lost control of his kayak as he came down the falls near Centennial Pine Bridge. His boat was wedged between rocks, and when he tried to right the kayak it flipped over, according to a report from local police. His body was submerged for an hour before it surfaced. The Lincoln, N.H., police department and search and rescue team recovered his body. This morning officials released his identity.
Alan was 29 years old. He lived in Montpelier with his partner Magdalena Dale — or “Mags” as he always called her — and his dog Buddy. He is survived by his parents Dave and Janet and his brother, Eric.
Alan graduated from the University of Montana School of Journalism in 2005 and cut his teeth reporting for the Ashland Daily Tidings and Mail Tribune newspapers in Southern Oregon where he covered education and the environment. He later wrote a weekly outdoors column for the Anchorage Press in Anchorage, Alaska, and he published freelance work for Canoe & Kayak magazine. Alan took a three-year hiatus from journalism to attend Vermont Law School. He passed the bar in November 2011.
We here at VTDigger.org are greatly saddened by Alan’s death. He was a bright and talented man with a great work ethic and sense of integrity. He was beloved by us and the Statehouse community. We especially enjoyed his keen and self-deprecating sense of humor. He will be greatly missed.
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Gov. Peter Shumlin issued the following statement Thursday on Alan’s passing:
“I am deeply sorry to learn of the death of VTDigger reporter Alan Panebaker, and my heart goes out to his friends, family, and the VTDigger staff. Alan was a fair, thorough and informative reporter, and always had a smile for his fellow journalists and the politicians he covered. He will be missed.”
“I am greatly saddened to hear that former VTDigger reporter Alan Panebaker passed away this week. He was a diligent, effective reporter and brightened the halls of the State House with his sly smile and great sense of humor. I extend my sincere condolences to his partner, family, friends, and the staff at VTDigger.”
Vermont Democratic Party Chair Jake Perkinson’s statement:
“I am deeply saddened to hear of Alan’s passing. He was a thoughtful and fair reporter who brought a unique perspective to every story. We send our condolences to his family, friends, dog Buddy and the entire Digger Team during this difficult time.”
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Here’s a blog post Alan wrote last year about the death of kayaker Boyce Greer: Keeping on
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Alan’s death was reported on a range of media. Here are some links:
Vermont Public Radio: Former Vt. Reporter Dies In Kayaking Accident
Vermont Press Bureau: Former Statehouse reporter Alan Panebaker dies at 29 in kayaking accident
Burlington Free Press: Former Vermont reporter dies in New Hampshire kayaking accident
Boston.com: Former Vt reporter dies in NH kayaking accident
New Hampshire Public Radio: Kayaker Who Died Was Official With National Whitewater Organization
American Whitewater Association: AW Northeast Stewardship Director in Tragic Accident
Paddling Life News/Playak/com: AW Northeast Stewardship Director Alan Panebaker Dies Kayaking in New Hampshire
Boater Talk forum: http://boatertalk.com/forum/BoaterTalk/1052395820