A pioneering trip down a remote Mexican river ended in crippling injuries for Steve Daniel, 36, a noted Texas river explorer with a passion for class IV-V self-supported expeditions. Daniel and his companion, Victor Jones, were ahead of the group when he attempted to run a steep, rocky drop. In it he hit a rock, his kayak broached and pinned, and his body disappeared from view. Jones was able to leap from the shore to the rock and recovered the boat, allowing Daniel to float free. Jones grabbed him, and swam towards the sides of what was now a deep gorge. In a niche in the rocks he began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Fifteen minutes later Daniel was awake asking where he was. One leg was broken, but there appeared to be no other injuries.
The evacuation became an epic. Three kayaks were tied together to form a raft, and Daniel was ferried to a rock outcropping where a tent was pitched. He was given pain pills, and the party split up into two groups, both seeking help. Three went downstream in boats, and three hiked out. The hikers hitched a ride to an isolated ranch, where they were able, through unknown connections, to arrange a rescue flight by a Drug Enforcement Administration helicopter several days later. Daniel was taken to a local clinic, then to a Durango hospital. Family and friends, concerned with the level of care he was receiving, wanted to transfer him to the as soon as possible. But he was not released by hospital officials until his state representative guaranteed payment of a $2000 hospital bill. Once he arrived in Houston , doctors discovered that his legs had been hyperextended during the accident, severely damaging veins, arteries, and other tissues. A double amputation above the knees was necessary.
SOURCE: Houston Chronicle; AWA Journal
ANALYSIS: As this narrative points out, severe injury on remote expeditions can have terrible consequences. Extreme caution is advised in remote areas. Furthermore, it appears that group organization was not at tight as it should have been, with paddlers spread out over miles of river like a stateside day trip. This relaxed attitude may have led to the error in judgment which caused Daniel to make the run in the first place.
This account points out the difficulty of summoning medical help in remote regions of the worlds. Were it not for his political connections, he could have died on the river or languished in a small rural hospital. As it was, the long wait for competent care had crippling effects.
The rescue by Jones was a marvel of clear thinking and effective action. Without his intervention Daniel surely would have died on the spot.