A SOLO PADDLER’S NARROW ESCAPE
Al Bradley of Hamilton, Montana, submitted a report of a personal encounter with a strainer on Montana’s Bitterroot River . On September 1, 1991, the river was low and slow-moving, requiring some maneuvering around snags and rocks. Mr. Bradley was paddling solo when he hesitated momentarily and pinned on a cottonwood snag sticking out of the river at a 45 degree angle. The snap penetrated his neoprene sprayskirt and pushed between his legs, pinning him in place. He struggled to get free, but failed. Fighting to remain calm, he was able to lie across the snag and maintain his position.
A local man who owned a house nearby returned from work at 1:30 PM an heard Mr. Bradley’s screams, but thought it was just someone having fun on the river. Later his daughter and her fiancé spotted the kayak while walking on the river at 5 PM. They heard the screams and headed downstream to investigate. They waded out and tried to lift the boat free, but the current was too strong. The man went back to the house and brought the rest of the family and a small saw. For the next fifteen minutes they took turns standing in four feet of water and sawing away at the snag. His daughter, an EMT, kept Mr. Bradley talking.
Sheriff’s deputies, volunteer firefighters, and ambulance crews arrived. They cut the kayak open along the front deck and peeled back the sides, and made a perpendicular cut across the bow. They removed Bradley from his boat and placed him in a litter. He was taken to the hospital and treated for hypothermia and a kidney shutdown resulting from his ordeal.
SOURCE: Al Bradley
EDITOR’S NOTE: Solo paddling carries one significant added risk: if you need help, it won’t be nearby and may come too late!