Karjia Jiang drowns in Potomac River in Great Falls

(Photo: Kimberly Suiters/WJLA)

What started as a call for a river rescue in the Potomac has turned into a death investigation. Crews pulled 53-year-old Karjia Jiang’s body from the river between Great Falls and Mather Gorge Friday.{ }

“We were putting our kayaks in and they sped down here and threw their boats in the water,” says Robert Waldron.

Kayakers had hoped to enjoy a beautiful day on the water, but instead they worried about all the activity around them.

Sandrine Deglin, an experienced kayaker, first thought it was an exercise when she saw the helicopter.

Montgomery County Police say while a Great Falls family went shopping, their relative visiting from China said she wanted to go for a walk. An hour later, her body was recovered from the water. Her family said she did not know how to swim.

David Friedland says going into the water is dangerous because an undertow can suck you under. He says there are signs about previous drownings in the area.

Experienced kayakers say they’re well-aware of the dangers of class-five rapids, but many people only see calm waters and think it’s safe to wade in.
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“When we see people on shore we tell them they should wear safety gear,” says Deglin.

But even those who go out on the water whenever they can don’t ever do it without safety gear. They say life jackets aren’t just for show, they save lives.{ }

On average, Great Falls sees seven drownings a year.

No foul play is suspected in Jiang's death.