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Experienced/Inexperienced
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Accident Description


Tony Barb, an intermediate kayaker, was running Colorado’s EagleRiver with an intermediate kayak clinic from BoulderOutdoorCenter . This is his description of a near-miss that occurred on June 24, 1994.  

“We were kayaking the section just downstream of Dowd Chutes on the Eagle. I was unable to roll and had to swim. Ken, my instructor, was right behind me as I worked toward the river right shore. I shoved the kayak toward shore only ten feet out and braced off a large rock. I dropped my legs to try and find the bottom and suddenly my right calf slipped into a fork in a tree that was about four feet under water and quite invisible. I was instantly pinned and pushed over, with my head eight inches below the surface. I fought and twisted, but there was absolutely no give. I was already tired from my swim and had resigned myself to drowning when suddenly my head was lifted up, high enough for a breath. There was another pull from above and I felt a slight loosening from the log fork. I pulled hard and was free. Ken swam me ashore where I tried to recover from shock and exhaustion. I am alive today because of Rob and Ken and have only the highest praise for these two professionals.”

Ken Evans and Rob Gaffney, both instructors from the BoulderOutdoorSchool , had been following Mr. Barb closely during his swim. Realizing that he was pinned, they eddied out behind a rock just upstream. This is the same one from which the victim had just pushed off. Ken hopped out of his boat, reached down, and was able to grab hold of Mr. Barb’s PFD and pull him free. The whole incident took about thirty seconds. Mr. Barb said his mistake was attempting to stand in what he thought was an eddy, but was actually four to five feet of moving water. It’s an error he won’t make again!  

SOURCE: Tony Barb; Mike Bader  

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the best argument I can think of for following swimmers closely.