According to the Orange County District Attorney, it was no accident, it was a case of murder. A woman who admitted she helped cause her finance’s drowning death by removing a plug from his kayak before it to capsize on a during the Hudson River kayaking trip.
Viafore drowned while the couple was kayaking on April 19, 2015. Graswald, a Latvian national, admitted to pulling out the plug to Viafore's kayak before they set out on the river on a day when conditions were dangerous. She also admitted she was aware that the locking clip on one of his paddles was missing. She told them she was happy Viafore died, that she wanted to be free of him and knew she was primary beneficiary on two of his life insurance policies.
Her defense team said Graswald's statements were coerced by police during an 11-hour interview, that removing the kayak plug wouldn't have caused Viafore's kayak to capsize. Viafore also had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.066. and was not wearing a life vest or a wet suit and knew the springtime river waters were dangerously cold at the time.
“From the moment I was pulled from the water," said Graswald," They labeled me a defendant.”
|Bannerman's Island on the Hudson River|
And while many expressed outrage in the justice system in what they felt was to light of a sentence for the crime in the New York Times Comments to last week's story. Some kayakers who responded, they maintain it was a tragic accident that could have been avoided and believe there is little substantiation to Graswald orchestrating Viafore’s death. Saying the lack of suitable kayaks to the rough conditions of the water, no PFDS or spray skirts and Viafore’s kayaking skills had more to due to his death than the lack of a drain plug.
"It is clear to me that most people don’t realize that the drain plug of a kayak is near the TOP of the kayak at one of the ends," wrote Jim from Pennsylvania, "Not submerged below the water line. To use it to drain water, you have to take the kayak out of the water, flip it upside down, and lift one end before waiting a few minutes while water trickles out a hole smaller than a quarter. You could kayak around all day with an open plug and not take on any water. The notion that this woman sabotaged his kayak by removing the plug is nonsense."
|Angelika Graswald and kayak|
|Viafore's kayak model|
And Pete from New York commented on the court's deficiency of understanding of the practice of kayaking in general "This story seems very odd to me. I am a class 4-5 whitewater kayaker with 5 years experience teaching. As said by other, the mistakes here would be going out without a PFD, going out in rough weather without a spray skirt and drinking before going kayaking. I just don't see any proof that a crime was committed here and I'm surprised that these pieces of evidence were even allowed in court."
So while the headlines screamed Kayak Murder, many in the paddling community speculate there is no way Graswald engineered Viafore’s death. And think though tragic, Viafore’s death was of his own making.
"This entire process has been incredibly difficult for me," wrote Graswald to the court, I love Vince very much and miss him terribly. When we went kayaking that day my intention was for both of us to come home.”