Accident Database

Report ID# 1059

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • Does not Apply
  • High Water
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

 West Valley Man Dead After Kayaking (NB: it was a canoe) Accident

Twenty six-year-old Gary Gardner of West Valley died Saturday after a kayaking (NB: it was a canoe) accident in the Jordan River in Murray. His older brother, thirty six-year-old Steven Gardner is expected to recover. Authorities say the kayak tipped over and both brothers fell in the water.

Mary Alice, who didn't want to disclose her last name, came upon the scene as she was riding her bike on a trail that runs along the Jordan River. "I saw these two gentlemen and one man appeared to be unconscious and the other trying to get him out of the river," Mary Alice told ABC 4 News. Mary Alice jumped off her bike and helped try to get the unconscious man out of the water, but his weight prevented the two from pulling him out. From the bank, Mary Alice held his head and instructed the other brother to do CPR. "I went down to try and help him stabilize the airway, instructed him how to do compression and some breathing," she said. "I was really worried about his breathing because I was worried about his airway and I wanted to hold him stable."

When paramedics arrived, the victim was still breathing but unconscious. Authorities are still trying to piece together how the brothers ended up in the water. "They went over the dam, got caught in the boil which is a recycling spot and it keeps sucking them back into the dam," said United Fire Authority Battalion Chief Dave Lehnhof. While the hot weather invites many into the water, authorities say the rivers are not friendly right now. "We have really, really high runoff this year," Lehnhof said. "The rivers are full, the streams are full. They're dangerous. Very, very dangerous."

Story by: Marcos Ortiz;

SLC, Utah News reports indicate that Gary Gardner of West Valley City died on Saturday April 29, 2006 while canoing on the Jordan River.

KSL-TV had the following article on their site ( A man is dead after a ride down the Jordan River. He and his brother were canoing on the Jordan River this afternoon. To avoid going through a waterfall, the pair got out of the canoe. But when they passed the waterfall and got back in, the boat capsized. After that, Steve Gardner was able to get himself and his brother Gary out of the water. Unfortunately, Gary was already unconscious. He died about seven minutes after making it to the hospital.

The Jordan River and its gushing water is a sign of the times. Dave Lehnhof/Unified Fire Authority: "We have really, really high runoff this year. The rivers are full, the streams are full. They're dangerous, very dangerous." That danger played out this afternoon. Dave Lehnhof/ Unified Fire Authority: "We had two brothers who were coming down the river with a canoe." At some point, the canoe capsized and the brothers-- one 36 years old, the other 26 years old-- were dumped in. Officials say the two got trapped in what's called a boil. The water bubbles and churns, and just keeps recirculating. So if anything gets in there, it's hard for it to get out. In this case, the guys kept getting pulled back in." Even with all that force, somehow the older brother was able to get his younger brother to the banks. Other people helped pull them out, and perform CPR until paramedics could step in. Dave Lehnhof/ Unified Fire Authority: "They went through a lot of immediate lifesaving procedures on the scene." The younger brother was flown to University Hospital. He died later. The older brother was taken by ambulance. He is now back home. Officials say the river water is cold because of the excessive runoff this year. Due to that runoff and the unique circumstances it creates, they want to remind people to be extra careful near rivers and streams.

This section of river is AW stretch 1857 (which I need to update) The difficulty is class I-II, and at 800-900 cfs I would call the level high, but not in flood stage. Apparently the victim was wearing a life jacket. What is referred to as a "water fall" in the article is actually a weir for one of the numerous diversion canals along this stretch. The men put back in too close to the recirculating hole and were pulled upstream back into the hydraulic.

I visited the site yesterday afternoon and it is a river-wide, uniform hole with backwash extending nearly 20 feet from the structure. Also, the brush is rather thick along the banks which might have forced them to launch further upstream rather than proceeding to the next opening. I hope to get a picture of the weir/hydraulic some time this weekend.

Northern Utah has a higher than average snow pack this year. We're also in a second season of a wet period and many of reservoirs are near full. (Necessitating high flows in channels in order to create storage room.) The Jordan river flows out of Utah Lake which is governed by various agreements and legal contracts requiring the lake to be kept below a certain "Compromise Elevation" -- we're currently about 1-foot above this level, and every effort is being made to dump water before the melt begins in earnest.

Flows were approximately 900 cfs on Saturday in a very small channel that normally sees 200-300 cfs. In summary it appears that unfamiliarity with the significant hazard a low head dam presents and higher than normal flows all contributed to this fatality. Please feel free to contact me with questions. I hope this is the only event I'll need to report this year. respectfully,

Ed Clark AW Jordan River Streamkeeper Colorado Basin River Forecast Center; NOAA/NWS

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