Accident Database

Report ID# 1047

  • Impact/Trauma
  • Physical Trauma
  • Solo Paddling

Accident Description

On this day, the river (Class 5+. 300+ fpm) had come up to a moderate-high level. I had tried to join another group of local boaters, but they were very unfriendly and refused to let me join their group, so I ended up soloing. I had soloed the river before, and I knew it fairly well. Once on the river, I had to slow down a bit to avoid catching up to the group ahead of me. I was paddling very well, and I felt totally in control.

I stopped to scout two or more rapids, including Double Indemnity, a two-stage waterfall. In this drop, the first ledge drops around six feet (as memory serves), while the bottom drop is around twelve to fifteen feet, depending on where it is measured. I was feeling a bit tired, but I had been suffering from undiagnosed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for several years, and I was feeling passably well, considering, but not terrific. The first problem was that I may have taken a less-optimal line due to the water being higher than when I had done the river before. Or it may just be that the usual line didn't work as well at that level. In any case, I came off the first, six-foot drop and backendered, narrowly avoiding a flip. This prevented me from getting much momentum for the bottom drop, and, at the time, my boof wasn't very good, anyway, so I nosed down the final drop too steeply, knowing full well that there was a ledge there that I could theoretically boof past, but also knowing that that wasn't going to happen.

As I landed, I could feel that certainly at least one of my legs was broken (they both were). I was stuck at a 45-degree angle for a while before my boat slid off the ledge, due to my squirming around. I paddled across the pool and climbed out of my boat, lying in the cold water to try to avoid passing out. (I was wearing a drysuit.) After a while, I simply crawled up the hill and @1 1/2 miles back to the put-in, dragging my boat behind me. I loaded my boat on top of my car, using an embankment for assistance, and drove to the medical clinic in Parsons, WV.

In retrospect, years later, I've found out that I seem to have osteoporosis from approximately 35 years of undiagnosed, chronic Lyme Disease. If not for that, I seriously doubt if I would have broken any bones, or, at least, I felt that I shouldn't have suffered such a severe set of fractures. There had been another occasion when I unknowingly broke my leg after falling about six inches while bouldering; I never sought medical attention then because I had thought it just couldn't be broken from such a minor trauma, but it was, I found out, after the surgery for this accident. It has taken many years for me to discover that the constant exhaustion and frequent broken bones that I have experienced for 20+ years has been due to Lyme Disease. I had brought lunch, and the crawl back to my car took about 8 hours. I put pogies under my knees, and I crawled through the snow in preference to the gravel, when possible.

Robert Farmer

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