Accident Database

Report ID# 10733

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Does not Apply
  • High Water

Accident Description

The following is a note from Brian Palmer an active paddler and CCGH member: There was some video on the site of the York Daily Record of a couple of kayakers coming off of Swatara Creek near the trailer of one of the water rescue groups and neither was wearing a PFD, both were in rec kayaks. The gauge indicates the river came up about 1000 cfs (from 400 to 1400 cfs) that afternoon from 2:00 to 5:00. 

Swatara kayakers caught in storm; one reported unresponsive

Lebanon Daily News

John Latimer ,

Published 5:02 p.m. ET July 1, 2017

Emergency crews assist kayakers stranded by torrential rains in Jonestown. John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News (Photo: John Latimer/Lebanon Daily News)

A sudden afternoon thunderstorm with torrential rains swept through Lebanon County on Saturday afternoon stranding numerous kayakers along Swatara Creek in Jonestown, with one possibly becoming a drowning victim. 

The Lebanon County Emergency Management Agency responded to reports of a possible drowning victim and stranded kayakers at about 4:40 p.m. EMA reports indicated a person was taken out of the water and CPR was being administered, state police said

"An unresponsive man was pulled from the water and he was taken by ambulance to the closest hospital," confirmed Cpl. Nathan Trate, who could provide no other details.

Several other kayakers were stranded and needed assistance to reach the shore where they were assisted by a water rescue team from Fort Indiantown Gap.

A state trooper questions of the men who were rescued while kayaking on the Swatara Creek in Jonestown Saturday afternoon. (Photo: John Latimer, Lebanon DailyNews)

The group, made up of men and women, gathered under the bridge on Jonestown Road next to their colorful kayaks, where they were each questioned by state troopers.

Obviously shaken, none of the survivors wanted to speak about their ordeal.

One man who said he was from Annville, said the group had formed as they floated down the muddy-colored creek on what started out a sweltering summer's day. He said he didn't know the victim but he had been floating with them. "We did all we could," he said.

Kayakers console themselves on the banks of the Swatara Creek in Jonestown after one of their group may have drowned. (Photo: John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News)

The first reports of kayakers in trouble came about 3:45 p.m. Crews from Jonestown, Bunker Hill, Ono and Fort Indiantown Gap fire companies along with a First Aid & Safety Patrol ambulance were dispatched for a water rescue in the area of Supreme Mid-Atlantic and the Jonestown Dam. 

Initial reports from the scene indicated there were as many as 14 kayakers and that all were accounted for. The box was put back in service by EMA at 4:09 p.m.

But then came reports about 30 minutes later of a possible drowning victim in the same area.

The identity of that individual or his condition were not known on Saturday evening. 

36-year-old man identified as drowning victim in storm-related kayaking incident


Posted on July 1, 2017 at 10:08 PM

By Charles Thompson

A kayaking accident apparently triggered by Saturday afternoon's spotty heavy downpours has claimed the life of a North Lebanon Township man.

State police said Perry Ratcliffe Jr., 36, was pronounced dead at 5:37 p.m., shortly after he was pulled from the Swatara Creek near Jonestown by other members of a group he had been boating with.

The death is being treated as an accidental drowning, said Trooper Eric Dreisbach, of the state police's Jonestown Barracks.

Dreisbach said Ratcliffe and other kayakers were floating down the Swatara when a storm that dumped approximately two inches of rain in about 45 minutes turned portions of the creek into a raging rapids.

Ratcliffe apparently became submerged after crossing over a low-head dam and was unable to recover. Several of his companions were able to bring him to an island in the creek where they started CPR, and resuscitation efforts continued when first responders arrived on the scene. Ratcliffe, however, apparently never regained consciousness.

"It was just a very unfortunate accident, and a bad situation all the way around," Dreisbach said.

Emergency personnel responding to the scene were able to successfully rescue several other kayakers who had lost their boats or otherwise had become stranded, police said.





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