Action | September 26, 2017 5:00 am

An Adventurer Makes Sense of His Drowning Death and Resuscitation

Tim Cahill died after whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon at age 71. He returned at 73.

USA, Arizona, Grand Canyon, Commercial motor rig (not Cahill's team) rowing through huge waves at Lava Falls on Colorado River. (John Warburton-Lee/Getty)
USA, Arizona, Grand Canyon, Commercial motor rig (not Cahill's team) rowing through huge waves at Lava Falls on Colorado River. (John Warburton-Lee/Getty)

After spending a long career in adventure writing, Tim Cahill recently published an article he probably never imagined writing: The story of how, at age 71, he flatlined on a beach after white water rafting on the Colorado River.

“I had been thrown out of the raft at the top of the rapid, ambushed by some bit of rogue hydraulics, and recall attempting to swim against forces entirely beyond human control,” Cahill writes in Outside. He recounts the slow-motion violence of the river, calling the just-out-of-reach breath he could practically taste “unfair.” He remembers inhaling river water. When he was miraculously pulled from the rapids, he made it back with his team to the shoreline. There, he finally collapsed — later learning his face turned blue, then gray — and his heart stopped beating altogether.

“I’d like to say that I saw a heavenly light and felt myself floating toward it,” Cahill writes. “But that didn’t happen. I didn’t see any beckoning figures or beloved pets bounding across the Rainbow Bridge. There weren’t any pearly gates and I didn’t even see a guy with a pitchfork.

It wasn’t black inside. It wasn’t gray. It just wasn’t there. It was nothing.”

Take a look below at kayakers taking on Lava Falls, the same place where Cahill drowned.