Accident Database

Report ID# 1121

  • Pinned in Boat Against Strainer
  • Near Drowning
  • Other
  • High Water

Accident Description


            On June 5, 1995, Greg Norris was kayaking with Fred Donaghy on Boulder Creek in Colorado’s Front Range . Both were experienced paddlers, but they had not run that section before and the river was running extremely high.  

            Where the river runs past an island near the 30th Street bridge, Norris broached end-to-end between two trees. The boat folded, trapping his feet, then flipped. Donaghy is a ski patrolman and had taken river rescue courses. He eddied out, waded out into the river, and released the pin by lifting one end of the boat. However,  he could not hold onto the flipped kayak; it was carried downstream upside down with Norris inside. Donaghy got back in his kayak and gave chase. After the boat broached momentarily on a rock, he was able to push boat and victim to shore. 

            Norris had been underwater about three minutes. With the help of a passerby, Donaghy extracted him from the boat and began rescue breathing. Norris began to breathe spontaneously after about eight breaths, but remained unresponsive. The pair was relieved by the Boulder Fire Department, and  Norris regained consciousness in a half hour and was transported to the hospital.  

SOURCE: Roger W. Lynn, Colorado Whitewater Association Safety Chair posting to

EDITOR’S NOTE: This rescuer must be commended for his quick thinking and dogged persistence.   

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