British extreme kayaker feared dead after disappearing in Swiss rapids

Bren Orton, British extreme kayaker, has been missing since Thursday afternoon
Bren Orton has been missing since Thursday afternoon

A British whitewater kayaker is feared dead after rapids dragged him under on a river in Switzerland.

Bren Orton, 29, is thought to have been pulled from his kayak in the Melezza River in the Ticino Region of Switzerland last Thursday afternoon.

The celebrated kayaker, who in 2018 broke a world record after descending a 128ft waterfall in Mexico in a kayak, is thought to have been dragged down by “recirculating waves”.

His kayak was recovered on Friday morning but police said there was no sign of Mr Orton.

His disappearance was announced by Pyranha, the British maker of his high-performance kayaks.

Bren Orton, 29, is thought to have been pulled under by the rapids while kayaking in Switzerland
Bren Orton, 29, is thought to have been pulled under by the rapids while kayaking in Switzerland

Posting its Instagram, it said: “It is with a heavy heart that we announce an accident involving Bren Orton. While kayaking on the Melezza River in Switzerland, Bren became trapped in a recirculating feature and did not resurface.

“Authorities and friends are tirelessly continuing their search efforts, and at this time, Bren is considered missing.”

Local police have been searching for Mr Orton since his disappearance and police in Italy are believed to be helping with the operation, as well as a team of 15 kayakers.

A spokesman for the Ticino police said: “Shortly before 2.45pm in the area of Palagnedra, a man who was previously in a kayak was reported missing in the Melezza River.

“The searches – still ongoing – began immediately and involved agents from the cantonal police and, in support, from the Ascona police as well as rescuers from the Locarnese and Valli Ambulance Service.”

Bren Orton spoke about the mental toils of his sport on social media
Friends paid tribute to Bren Orton describing him as an 'incredible human'

In December 2022, Mr Orton posted an emotional video to his 33,100 subscribers expressing his love of the sport to his YouTube channel, but also a sense of “betrayal”.

“How can something that brings me so much joy cause me so much pain?” he asked, discussing his highs and lows, and mental health issues, as drone shots showed the daredevil descending huge waterfalls.

Mr Orton’s friends and family have shared their condolences on social media. Writing on Facebook, James Reeves, a former competitive kayaker, said: “Every few years, we seem to lose a friend to our sport. Each loss is tough, and this one cuts deep.

“Bren Orton was an incredible human. From his teenage years, his warm smile and friendly nature shone as brightly as his kayaking skills. Always keen to help and inspire others.”