The Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department assisted MCFRS in responding to a kayaker who drowned in the Potomac River on Sunday. Credit: Pete Piringer

This story, originally published at 12:35 p.m. on Sept. 18, was updated at 3:45 p.m. on Sept. 19 to add the identity of the victim and what university kayaking club she was with.

A female kayaker drowned in the Potomac River near Little Falls on Sunday afternoon, said Pete Piringer, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) spokesperson. 

Around 3:15 p.m., MCFRS was dispatched for a kayak/boater in distress, and Metropolitan Police Department officers and a U.S. Park Police helicopter responded as well, Piringer posted on social media. 

Approximately 24 adults, who were identified as part of the Columbia University Whitewater Kayaking Club in a news release, were out on the Potomac River when Ella Mills, a junior in Columbia University’s School of General Studies, was “caught/trapped/pinned under a rock (in hydraulics),” according to Piringer. 

“Words cannot express how heartbroken I feel for her family, her friends, her loved ones, and those students from the University who were with her on this trip,” said Minouche Shafik, president of Columbia University, in the news release.

People at the scene tried to help her before MCFRS arrived, but she ultimately did not survive, Piringer said.


Since Little Falls is on the border of Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, the Metropolitan Police Department will be investigating this incident, according to Piringer.