|Reach #:|| |
|Section:||5. Dam at Melrose to the Tennessee River|
|Accident Cause:||Caught in a Natural Hydraulic|
|Cause Code(s):||Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic|
|Injury Type(s):||Does not Apply|
|Factors Code(s):||Failed Rescue|
One Boat Trip
|Boat Type:||Whitewater Kayak|
|Other Victim Names:||Chip Koella|
Earnest Koella and his son Chip, witnessed the event. Along with employees of Rockford Manufacturing, they attempted to assist. The pair was courageous, but had no swiftwater training. Both made the mistake of tying themselves to a rope before entering swift current. First, the younger Koella tied a rope to his waist and swam into the hydraulic. He was caught between the dam and a large log and killed. Then the elder Koella tied himself into a rope. The plan was to lower him to the lip of the dam so he could stand on the structure. As he approached the drop the current pulled him under water. He was hauled back upstream and convinced not to make another attempt.
Rescue crews arrived, and tried for several hours to recover the bodies of the two men. The search was called off because of darkness at 9:30 p.m., and resumed the next day. The bodies of Kyle Tyree and Chip Koella were recovered some distance downstream. They are the son and grandson of a state senator so the press coverage was heavy.
On the same day, another swimmer died after trying to swim over another dam miles upstream. Alcohol was involved in the second incident.
SOURCE: DeWitt Beeler and Michael McGinnes, posting to rec.boats.paddle; The
1. Dams are deceptively dangerous, especially at high water. They kill many paddlers, and should not be run except in unique circumstances.
2. Dams kill almost as many rescuers as they do paddlers! Rescuers should reach into the hydraulic with ropes, tag lines, and other techniques. They should never enter the backwash, or they will be trapped, too.
3. Never tie yourself into a rope before entering fast-moving water. There are many circumstances when the current will pull you under and keep you there. The only exception is for those using a rescue life vest with a reliable quick release system. Even then, they are not recommended for swimming rescue around dams, as the line can get caught by recirculating debris and override the harness mechanism.