Several years ago my husband and I went on a guided raft tour at Ohiopyle. It was Memorial Day and the river was running high due to spring rains . . .
Before the beginning of the trip we were all given life jackets and told what to do. We were told that if we fell in the water we should lie on our backs, feet up and pointing downstream . . . In the calm water before we approached each set of rapids the guide would tell the group how best to approach and paddle through the rapids . . . We were apprehensive as we approached the first rapids. It seemed more like a waterfall to us, there being quite a drop. We made it through, though. It was fun and exhilarating . . . I remember saying to my husband, “This is great! We’ll have to bring the girls next time.” (We had two teenagers still at home at the time.)
The second half of our journey went well until we hit the ‘ DoubleHydraulicFalls ’. One minute I was in the raft, the next I was flipped into the rapids and went underwater. With my eyes open I could see the huge boulders all around me and the swirling waters. I was never so terrified in my whole life.
When I surfaced I tried to lie on my back but I couldn’t! The churning, swirling, foaming water made it impossible. One of the guides in a kayak came alongside me. I tried to grab on but my hand slipped off and I went under again. The water was so cold and I was so scared! I though I was going to die. When I finally surfaced again I was able to grab onto our raft and was pulled back in.
Somehow we finished the i. . I don’t remember much . . . I think I was in shock.
I am writing this to make people aware of how dangerous this activity can be.”
SOURCE: Joan Bleschschmidt; Letter to the Editor; Pittsburgh Press, August 15, 1987
ANALYSIS: This was clearly a pretty routine swim, with the woman safely rescued by her own crew. This letter was partly reprinted, not because it was a true “near miss,” but to remind all of us who deal with novices how traumatic these swims can be, and to take steps to minimize them for those who are learning. Furthermore, as even a simple incident like this can be quite strenuous, it points out the need for participants to be in good physical condition.