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Former MMA fighter Travis Galbraith dies in rafting accident near Willow River

Body of Prince George man was found after four-day search along river 35 km east of the city

Former mixed martial artist Travis Galbraith has been identified as the missing Prince George man found dead Tuesday afternoon after a rafting accident on Willow River, 35 kilometres east of the city.

Prince George RCMP and Prince George Search and Rescue confirmed on Wednesday that a search that began Saturday - his 43rd birthday - when he was reported missing by his family in Prince George, had ended tragically.

Friend David Mothus started a Go Fund Me page to help Galbraith's wife Sharon and their sons deal with huge loss of a devoted family man who was well-respected in the community. The site has already raised $30,000.

“There are no words to say how tough this is,” Mothus wrote. "He passed away in the bush, which is where he lived life to the fullest. He leaves behind a wife and his boys and this is just to give them some breathing room to grieve without considering money. There is no amount of money that will replace Trav. There is no goal… there is just a world of pain.

“Thank you to each of you for stepping up. I know beyond any doubt Travis would be there for us and this would mean the world to him. I know Sharon would not have asked for this, she was his pride. So thank you for loving her and Trav. I will be helping them plan a memorial after some time passes and some of this money will help with that."

Galbraith was 21 when he took on MMA legend Georges St-Pierre on Oct. 11, 2002, in Montreal, a fight at UCC 11 that was stopped 2:03 into the first round when GSP won by elbow submission. St-Pierre, also 21 at the time, improved his pro record to 3-0 while handing Galbraith only his second loss in seven pro fights. He ended his 10-year fight career May 29, 2010, with a win over Kelowna's Brian Coldwell, finishing with an 18-7-0 record.

“RIP Travis ‘The Gladiator’ Galbraith. I am at a loss; never did I ever think I would say those words in my adult life,” posted Shara Vigeant, Galbraith’s MMA trainer when he was based in Edmonton.

“Travis was a Canadian MMA pioneer who fought GSP and fought in Pride and Elite XC, going on to open his own BJJ school. I owe my career to Travis. He was the first MMA fighter I ever trained. Not only was he a beast of an athlete, and super talented (anyone who has ever fought or trained with him, can attest to that), he was a beautiful human being. He had a heart of gold and would be the first to help anyone who needed it.

“My heart is broken for his family, his sons and Sharon. The world lost a good one.”

As a black belt master, Galbraith was owner and head instructor of Galbraith Jiu Jitsu based at the Northern Capital Judo Club. He was an inspiration to longtime friend Karm Manhas, owner of Kaiten Mixed Martial Arts in Prince George, who also posted a Facebook tribute.

“Today we mourn the massive loss of PG martial art history with the fighter, the absolute legend, the family man and an amazing friend Mr. Travis Galbraith - pioneer of MMA in Prince George,” said Manhas.

“It's very difficult to explain what an exemplary man he was in every way, that has given the shirt off his back many times. Raised a beautiful family and made sure to never leave anyone behind. Born LEADER born WARRIOR. Condolences to the entire family and all friends on this devastating loss.”

The outpouring of support as word of his death becomes known around the community is helping Galbraith's son Gabriel deal with the sudden loss of his father.

"I would personally like to thank each and every single person that has donated to the go fund me, no matter how big the donation is," he said. "Thanks to the 70+ people there has been $30,000 raised just in the last 24 hours. My father isn’t here to see this but it would have made him very happy to see how many people he affected in his short life on earth.

"I know he can’t be here to relay this information to you so I’m hoping me saying it will suffice. Thanks for supporting my family my Mother is just blown away with the amount of support she is receiving. Thanks a million."

The four-day search involved friends, family, frontline police officers, an RCMP helicopter and 18 Search and Rescue members who spent 150 man-hours looking for Galbraith along the river Initial hopes that he would be found alive when tracks were found in the mud next to his overturned rubber dinghy were dashed when his body was finally located at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.  

“Prince George RCMP would like to thank all of the agencies and Search and Rescue volunteers that were involved in this search and the subsequent recovery of the missing rafter,” said RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Jennifer Cooper. “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the deceased.”

This investigation has been turned over to the B.C. Coroners Service.