Accident Database

Report ID# 1164

  • Caught in a Natural Hydraulic
  • Does not Apply
  • Failed Rescue

Accident Description

From Mountainbuzz

I was trip leader of the raft trip that came upon the kayaker. It was below devils staircase in a relatively calm section. Talking to her friends she swam above what we call horseshoe hole, the rapid around the corner from ansel watrous, she apparently recirculated in horseshoe hole and came out of the hole face down.

One of the kayakers with her swam out of his boat and carried her to shore. The kayakers thought she was underwater for 2-5 minutes. I was in the last raft, sweeping for the trip, and when I came around the corner shyler was giving cpr. He acted amazingly. It was only his second comercial trip ever, and he reacted calmly and quickly. He caught a small eddy and took over the resecitation. The kayakers with the lady weren't experienced in cpr, and Shyler is an emt-b. One of the customers on our trip was a paramedic, and he ended up staying with her in the ambulance until the helecopter got her. The kayakers had apparently been giving her cpr for 10-15 minutes before we got there, and we continued for another 20 before the ambulance came. All told she wasn't breathing and was without a heartbeat for about 40 minutes, but she responded to the AED and her heart began beating again before the helecopter picked her up at hewletts.

The canyon ambulance driver told us today that she is on a respirator in the hospitol with a heartbeat of her own, but unconscious still. I don't know what the outcome will be, but it is important to remember that in cold water metabolism slows and there is still a chance. Don't give up on the cpr. All of us on scene including the paramedic thought she was gone, but noone quit, and now she has a chance. Be careful and cautionus out there in all conditions.

Remember stuff can happen anywhere even in a class III section like lower mish. My sympathies go out to anyone who knew her. I hope all the best for her and her family.

Daily Coloradoan

Fort Collins, CO Kayaker remains critical after plunge into Poudre


A kayaker pulled from the Poudre River following a kayaking accident Saturday remained in critical condition Sunday at Poudre Valley Hospital. Laurie Wirp, 48, of the Boulder area, did not have a pulse and was not breathing, said Bud Riggs, EMT intermediate with the Poudre Canyon Ambulance and one of the first on the scene. She was resuscitated at the scene and airlifted to PVH. According to a Larimer County Sheriff's report, Wirp was kayaking with three friends when her kayak apparently got caught in a water hole; the kayak flipped, plunging Wirp into the water.After being under water for an estimated two minutes, friends freed Wirt from the kayak, Riggs said. Wirt surfaced and then floated a ways down the river, said Don Nadow, Larimer County Sheriff's Office spokesman."When she surfaced, she wasn't struggling," Nadow said. "They don't know if she was unconscious or dazed."

A group of rafters with A-1 Wildwater, a Fort Collins rafting company, pulled Wirt out of the water, put her on a raft and took her to the riverbank where they began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Riggs said Wirt was gray from a lack of oxygen and cold from the water but did not have any other visible injuries. Medical personnel arrived, continued CPR and administered cardiac drugs, Riggs said."Right before we put her on the helicopter to airlift her to PVH, we got a spontaneous heartbeat back," Riggs said. The water rapids near the site of the accident didn't seem to be extremely rough, Riggs said."The rapids are probably a Class II, Class III at the most," he said. Water rapids are categorized into six classes with a Class I being easy to a Class VI, with warnings for professionals and experts only. A Class II rapid is "straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels," according to River Runners' Web site. The company, based in Buena Vista, coordinates rafting trips.

Kayaker dies after accident A kayaker pulled from the Poudre River Saturday afternoon was declared brain dead Monday, according to a nursing supervisor at Poudre Valley Hospital. Laurie Wirt, 48, of the Boulder area was underwater for at least two minutes, rescuers said. When she was pulled from the water she had no pulse and was not breathing, according to Bud Riggs, EMT intermediate with the Poudre Canyon Ambulance and one of the first on the scene.

Post subject: From Sun Jun 25, 2006 7:41 am LARIMER COUNTY - The Larimer County Sheriff's Office says the woman's kayak overturned on the Poudre River, along Highway 14, near Fort Collins. The name of the 48-year-old woman is not being released. Shyler King, a rookie rafting instructor helped save the woman. "Apparently she re-circulated too many times," says King, "she got in a hole or something and it kept spinning her around and around."

Emergency workers say the woman was in the water for about two minutes and floated down the river, approximately four-tenths of a mile, before being pulled out by people in the area. King's raft was passing by, he says he saw people on shore performing CPR, they asked for help. King and another rafter, a paramedic on vacation from Austin, Texas, tried to revive the woman. "She was pulseless," says King, "she wasn't breathing at all, her lips were blue, she was very pale. Luckily, we got some color back, I hope she's okay." The 48-year-old was flown to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, where she's listed in critical condition Saturday. Investigators say her name will not be released until her family is notified. --Props to all involved. Sounds like a pretty heroic effort.. Hopfully she recovers well. Witness Narrative by Gordon Rodda on 2006-07-01 (okay to publish): Kayak accident report ? Cache la Poudre River 24 June 2006 Written 28 June 2006 by Gordon Rodda, Neal Schrauf, and Stephen Monroe Shortly before noon 24 June 2006 seven intermediate-advanced paddlers embarked on a run of the Upper Mishiwaka section of the Cache la Poudre River, upstream of Fort Collins, Colorado. The weather was mostly sunny, warm (about 77 F at nearby Christman Field weather station), with a mild (< 10 mph) upstream wind. The water temperature was seasonably warm. The gage level was 2.9? or about 750 cfs at the canyon mouth, a low-moderate level. At about 2 PM, five of the paddlers left the river, either to return home (three) or to portage around a more difficult rapid, Mishiwaka Falls. Two of the paddlers, Neal Schrauf and Gordon Rodda, opted to run Mishiwaka Falls, but Laurie Wirt and Stephen Monroe shuttled some cars and then drove about 1/3 mile around the rapid. The break provided an opportunity to snack and rewarm if that was needed. Shortly before the break, Wirt had executed a successful combat roll in the crux move on Class III+/IV- Tunnel Rapid, but had had a short swim after a later flip. We don?t believe that exhaustion or cold was a factor in the subsequent events because: 1) of the intervening break, 2) Wirt did not mention or show concern with these factors, and 3) air and water temperatures were moderate. Around 2:30 PM the four continuing paddlers rejoined on the river below Mishiwaka Falls and embarked on the Class III Lower Mishiwaka run. All four of the kayakers were intermediate in skill level though fairly experienced, each with nearly twenty years or more of paddling time on numerous rivers throughout the United States and the world. About 20 min into the run Wirt flipped in a pool below the first drop of Ouzel Rapid. Both Monroe, who was slightly ahead of her while she was setting up the roll, and Rodda, who was furthest ahead of her but facing backwards, noticed that she set up properly and slowly for her roll, but it was unsuccessful, and while still in the upside-down boat she slid into a small hydraulic formed by a pourover. From the pourover downstream the river gradient increased sharply, causing the distance between the stationary Wirt and the moving companions to increase quickly. The water depth above the rock forming the pourover varied, but was about 4-8 inches over the peak of the rock. She appeared to slide around the river right sloping face of the pourover rock, which was water polished and algae covered, but she may have hit the rock at that time. The hydraulic is in the middle of the river about 48 yards (counted by paces) upstream of the outhouse at Ouzel Picnic Area of Roosevelt National Forest. At the time, the vertical drop into the hole was about 12-18 inches; the hole was about 6 feet wide, crescent shaped with the concavity facing downstream. The boil line was irregular, but peaked at a point about 8 feet downstream of the converging water and about 6 inches higher. Both outer edges of the hole had strong downstream water movement. She exited from her boat upon landing in the hole. The boat flushed from the hole after she did this. Monroe saw her paddle come out of the hole a good bit later than did the boat, perhaps because Wirt was initially holding onto the paddle. The paddle more or less caught up with her drifting kayak in the course of floating down the second series of drops in Ouzel Rapid. Wirt was seen to be violently struggling against the current. She recirculated, but Wirt was seen to get air when her head was up. Monroe beached left about 30 yards downstream of Wirt, in response to seeing her struggle. Rodda yelled that she was being recirculated, which stimulated Schrauf to beach on river left an estimated fifty yards downstream (Monroe did not hear Rodda?s yell). Schrauf struggled along the bank back upstream to her with his throw bag. Heavy bankside willow brush impeded movement and in places obscured Schrauf?s view of the situation. From Monroe?s vantage point he could see Wirt actively struggling in the hole. She reached the surfaced multiple times, perhaps 3 or 4. Anticipating that she would be washed out of the hole after a short period, Monroe waited in his boat in position to rescue the swimmer. After an estimated 30 seconds had passed he decided to attempt a rescue using a throw rope. Because of the heavy brush he could not see Schrauf and did not know that he was out of his boat at this time. Sensing the need for immediate action, Monroe got out of his boat, grabbed his throw rope, and struggled through the brush upstream towards a place where a clear toss to Wirt with the throw rope would be possible. As Monroe reached an opening in the brush, which occurred at about the same time as Schrauf arrived at the same place, Wirt?s limp body was observed flushing from the hole and floating downstream. This was about 2 minutes after the initial flip. She floated down the river with her face in the water and she was not moving. Monroe and Schrauf rushed back to their boats and took chase. A passing motorist yelled to Monroe and Schrauf from the road shoulder that a body had been seen floating downstream. Schrauf asked the motorist to call 911. Meanwhile, Rodda had continued some distance downstream, through the remainder of Ouzel rapid, while attempting to secure her boat and paddle. The boat was successfully beached on river right below the rapid, and unaware of Wirt?s condition Rodda exited the water to appraise the situation. From the motions of the other boaters Rodda realized that Wirt was still in the water, returned to his boat and joined the chase. A short distance downstream from Rodda?s position Monroe reached the bank on river left with Wirt and exited his boat, but a steep bank, strong current, lack of an eddy, and a large strainer immediately downstream kept Monroe from maintaining his grip on either his boat or Wirt. Rodda managed to get Wirt to the bank another 7 yards downstream, but due to the current was unable to maintain position without paddling. Monroe arrived on foot a few seconds later and secured Wirt while Rodda landed. Both immediately raised her feet up the bank to assist with draining her lungs, and began CPR (one doing heart compressions and the other giving artificial respiration). Wirt?s skin and lips were conspicuously blue at the time she was removed from the water and no pulse was detectable. In addition to Wirt?s blue color there was a laceration on the bridge of her nose. This injury could have been sustained any time between the initial flip and the time she was pulled out of the water. Schrauf arrived within seconds and traded off with both CPR tasks. PFDs were removed from both victim and helpers to provide a flatter surface. CPR was continued uninterruptedly until she was conveyed to the ambulance. Based on the flow rate of the river (we estimated 4 mph) and the distance from the beginning of her swim (about 0.4 mi based on subsequent odometer readings on the riverbank road), we estimated that she had been face-down in the water about 6-7 min. Her color improved markedly over the first few minutes of CPR, but we detected no pulse or spontaneous movements. While Schrauf and Monroe continued CPR, Rodda ferried to river right, where a stranger was seen on the roadside. She reported that an ambulance had been called and that someone was contacting a commercial raft trip a short ways upstream to request assistance with ferrying the victim to the road side of the river. The sheriff?s department reported the call at 3:23 PM. None of the party carried watches, so the earlier time intervals are estimated. The first raft to arrive on the scene was a single boat, private group. Very shortly afterwards the trip leader flagged down passing commercial rafts while Monroe and Schrauf continued to do CPR. Two of the commercial guides were an EMT and a paramedic. When these guides arrived at the site they relieved those performing CPR. While CPR continued on the bank, a kayak was inverted and placed in the center of one of the rafts to provide a hard flat surface for continuation of CPR while Wirt was ferried across the river to the ambulance, which arrived during the ferry. It was about 20 -30 min from the time that CPR was begun until Wirt was ferried across the river and transferred to the ambulance, where she was defibrillated and placed on life support. Shortly thereafter she was transported to Poudre Valley Hospital by helicopter, but all cortical function had been lost and was not recovered. Wirt was placed on full life support in the intensive care unit of the hospital and she was pronounced dead at 7:20 AM 26 Jun 2006. After-the-fact review. In subsequent days we returned to the scene of the incident to review what actions might have taken place differently. The largest surprise was the absence of any evident obstacle that might have caused the initial flip. Wirt had at least 19 years of experience white-water kayaking and had at least twice participated in week-long semi-private kayaking instruction. Because each of us had paddled with her on uncountable other occasions (including several Grand Canyon trips), we had no anxieties about her skill level in this situation. She had paddled much more difficult water earlier in the day and in the previous weeks. Although her success at rolling was inconsistent, the difficulty level at the site of the flip was no more than class II. The four paddlers in our group were fairly close together (order Rodda, Schrauf, Monroe, Wirt). About 100 yards upstream, the spacing had been slightly increased because Wirt and Rodda were bumping each other in rapids. At the time of the flip, each boater was within about 5 yards of the next paddler. The paddlers were in single file to facilitate following the line of the lead person (most familiar with this rapid). Rodda was facing upstream to monitor Wirt?s progress at the time she flipped and swam. Thus the time delay between recognizing Wirt?s swim and others getting back to a point on the bank where a throw rope could be used to aid her was about as low as it could have been given the difficulty of Ouzel Rapid. We believe that the conspicuous desperation of her swimming motions while she was in the hole may have indicated some sort of trauma suffered while she was upside down. Physical evidence for such a trauma was not evident from the subsequent CAT scans, but lack of cortical function when the scans were done may have concealed damage from an earlier head blow that disoriented her. High gradient and downstream holes and waves immediately downstream raised the difficulty level to a technical class III, which greatly impeded our efforts to get her out of the water. We found it extremely difficult to move her to the bank through the water, as lack of purchase and the high water resistance of her submerged body combined with turbulent flow and continuing drops to frustrate our desperate measures. The turbulent water and weight of her unresponsive body made it difficult to remain upright and impossible for us to pull her onto the deck of a boat while paddling. Static releasable rescue lines such as were fashionable in the 1980s could have been of value in this situation to tow her into calmer water.

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