Accident Database

Report ID# 100004

  • Swim into Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • High Water

Accident Description

BEDFORD COUNTY, TENN. A 15-year-old girl drowned Sunday afternoon while kayaking on the Duck River with her parents near the Normandy Dam. At Courtner’s Mill, an old low head dam, the three kayakers attempted to navigate an area, where the river has cut a channel around the dam. The 15-year-old, who was wearing a lifejacket, capsized and was swept into a downed tree where she was pinned underwater.

From Andrea White: This was a very high water dam release situation. That low head dam is set up as a mandatory portage but it sounds like they tried to paddle the “portage” trail, if I had to guess. Typical dam release flows on this section are under 300 cfs but TVA was releasing >800 cfs all weekend.

Currently there is no water flowing over the low head dam at Cortners Mill but there is an eroded side channel sluicing around the side of the dam which had a strainer in it. Brian Bruce, the first responder on the scene, said they had a 3 to 1 advantage on a haul line but could not pull her out. They ended up cutting the tree to free her.

The couple attempted to free their daughter, but swift currents prevented any rescue.

The Bedford County Tech Team, Bedford County EMS, Bedford County Fire, Normandy Fire, Bedford County Sheriff Department and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency responded to the scene.


The dam typically releases ~250 cfs. TVA was releasing ~800-1000 cfs all weekend and multiple community warnings had been made all weekend in various community Facebook groups all weekend to stay off the river.

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