Jean-Francois Lepine and Olivier Tardiff, two expert kayakers from Quebec, put in on the West Branch of the Ausable River in the northern Adirondacks on June 6. Squires’ New York guidebook lists the six miles above the Flume as class IV-IV+ with several carries around big drops. The water level was medium-high. Below the portage at High Falls Gorge there’s a Class IV drop above a large class V. According to a report Mr. Lepine submitted to the AW Database Mr. Tardiff, 35, flipped in a hole. He rolled up, finished the rapid backwards, and caught a narrow side-eddy along an island just below the drop. Then drifted out the back of the eddy into a tree extending well into the main current. He flipped and pinned.
His partner was on shore filming the upper run and did not see this happen. After running the drop found his friend trapped head-down in his boat. The boat was very securely pinned with the bow wedged against a rock and the stern shoved under the strainer. Mr. Lepine waded out to the boat and tried unsuccessfully to free it. Then he grabbed Mr. Tardiff and was able to pull him free. He swam him ashore, started CPR, and used a cell phone to call for help. Forest Rangers arrived an hour later to recover Mr. Tardiff’s body.