A Swim in the Hydraulic at Grumpy, Entrance Rapid, Ocoee, TN
While waiting for my group to set up the shuttle, I walked down the road studying Entrance Rapid. It was different that day because the water was being released through the sluice gate rather than over the top of the dam. I noticed a C-1 boater being endered repeatedly in a keeper hydraulic called Grumpy. It was obvious that he was in trouble. I ran along the road and shouted to another C-1 boater just upstream of the hole that someone was in it and needed help.
Many people were using the alternate put-in to avoid the crazy water from the unusual release. As I ran toward the victim, who was now swimming, I asked someone carrying a kayak for his rescue rope. “I don’t have one,” he said in away that implied, “why do you need a rescue rope on THIS river?” I ran down to the shore where an open boater was getting ready and asked for his rope. He opened up his saddle and began digging out all kinds of gear.
“Hurry up,” I screamed, “they guy’s drowning!”
He replied, “Just a minute, I have to get it out!”
By this time the other C-1 had run Grumpy and grabbed the victim as he went by. He was drifting toward us, holding on to the swimmer who was now unconscious. The canoeist waited until they were even with him before throwing the rope. The throw was accurate, but the rescuer couldn’t hold on. Eventually another kayaker was able to help bring the swimmer to shore. The victim was able to walk away.
AUTHOR: David Hablewitz, in the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club Newsletter
This rescue brings up several points:
Whitewater is always dangerous, so be prepared for trouble. Rivers like the Ocoee are often viewed to frequent users as just a big playground, with little inherent risk.
You should always carry safety equipment, keep it accessible, and know how to use it. The time you have to help someone may be measured in seconds, not minutes.
Accidents can happen to the best of us. The victim in this case was an Olympic Gold Medalist! He is in excellent physical condition and an expert paddler. The river, unfortunately, didn’t seem to care.