Accident Database

Report ID# 115835

  • Pinned in Boat against Rock or Sieve
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

Sometimes You Just Get Lucky

April, 1987. The Big Sandy in northern West Virginia is one of my all-time favorite runs—hard enough to keep your attention, but not nasty enough to scare you.  I’d taken out above Big Sandy Falls and set up my camera to photograph people running a steep chute just upstream.  The left side of the chute is undercut, but no one had ever gotten in trouble there before.  I photographed several people running the chute, then stopped to change lenses.

     Looking up, I saw a boater heading into the chute.  Her line was all wrong, and I smelled trouble ahead.  By the time I put my camera down, she had flipped and slammed head down, into the undercut left wall.

     I reached over, grabbed an arm, and puled.  Her head was above water, but I couldn’t lift the boat free.  She was screaming for someone to get her out.  I was scared to try to do it all myself because, if I dropped her, she’d be in big trouble.  I yelled for help.  Another guy ran up behind me.  We tied a safety line to her boat in case we lost our grip, then lifted.  Seconds later she was sitting on the ledge.

     She felt better than I did.  Reunited with her group, she ran the 15-foot falls below a few minutes later.  I sat on a rock for 15 minutes before portaging.  I never found out her name.  But I do know that she was very lucky.  Normally, the hardest thing in an entrapment rescue is getting to a trapped person, and in a heads-down pinning, you don’t have much time.  Fortunately, it happened right under my nose and there were others around to help.


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