Accident Database

Report ID# 1097

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • Near Drowning
  • Inexperience

Accident Description


Three solo canoeists put in on Class I Middle Creek six miles upstream of Middleburg, Pennsylvania , on April 18, 1993. After making the run, they returned to take a look at a low-head dam about one-fourth of a mile above their takeout. They decided to shoot the dam one person at a time. The first man was successful; the second flipped and washed through. The third man, who was wearing a PFD, swamped, flipped, and became trapped in the hydraulic below the dam. One of the men waded out and extended a hand to help. He was pulled off his feet into the reversal. The third man grabbed a canoe and was trying to extend it to his companions when they were washed free. He pulled the two men out. One was not breathing, so he started CPR, got a pulse, and continued rescue breathing until the victim could breathe on his own. A fisherman called 991. An ambulance transferred the victim to a Life Flight helicopter; he was taken to Geisinger Medical Center , where he was treated and released after several days. The other man was rewarmed in the car of a Pennsylvania Watercraft Officer.

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Boat and Fish Commission

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Boat and Fish Commission charged the three men with negligent operation of a watercraft. Being ignorant or stupid should not be a crime. The dam itself was unmarked; there were no warning signs. Although the group certainly displayed bad judgment, they were wearing PFDs and extricated themselves from the hydraulic without outside help. I suspect they won’t try this sort of thing again

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