North Fork Feather Drowning: August 29, 2010

posted April 6, 2011
by Charlie Walbridge

article photo 1

                  On August 29, 2010 Susan Marie Kaiser paddled the “Lowbin” section of the North Fork of the Feather in an inflatable kayak. According to postings in Boof.com, Ms. Kaiser, a former river guide, flipped her IK on a large breaking wave near the bottom in a long Class IV rapid below the first (Bucks Creek) power house. The current pushed her to the left and she pinned in a slot between a large boulder and a smaller submerged boulder to its left. One of the paddlers in her group of four said that the second she was pinned, he knew it was bad. He managed to swim into the small pocket eddy behind the boulder and tried to pull her out, but she was wedged in too tightly.  This photo by Jeff Sailus shows a kayak pinned in the same spot.

Boaters who witnessed the accident pulled over to help. A paddler in a rescue vest tried to swim out to the boulder where Ms. Kaiser was pinned but the current would not allow him to reach the boulder. Another paddled into the eddy and saw Ms. Kaiser’s head about a foot and a half underwater. The current was so strong that he couldn’t even touch her. After several false starts, paddlers set  up a v-lower that got rescuer in place to attach a sling directly to Ms. Kaiser. The first time they tied to pull her out something broke; the second time they were able to pull her and a couple of 1 ½” branches free. Even though Ms. Kaiser had been under for almost 45 minutes the group performed CPR. An EMT was ferried across the river on the back of a kayak and after some further effort CPR was discontinued. Butte and Plumas County swiftwater rescue teams launched a raft and brought Ms. Kaiser’s body over to the highway.

 

Charles Walbridge
Bruceton Mills, WV