Accident Database

Report ID# 14074

  • Health Problem
  • Heart Attack / Heart Failure
  • Other

Accident Description

On 7/7/2017 Jeffery Stewart Bitler, 54, of Canton, GA, died of a heart attack while kayaking a 15 1/2 mile class I-II section of Georgia's Talking Rock Creek. He had had one minor swim but had been paddling well. About halfway through the trip he stopped to explore the dramatic 120-foot "Talking Rock" (AKA Cave Bluff), a famous location in Cherokee lore. He climbed to the top of the bluff and then repelled down it, stopping at its cave for about 5 mInutes. When he got down he told us that he felt tired and shared, "I hope I don't have a heart attack," and "I'm getting too old for this."

Jeff was an avid, experienced caver and climber. He then swam downstream to his kayak and sat on the bank. About 5 minutes after his descent he suddenly lost consciousness and fell over into the water. Jim Gerwer had been talking to him, saw him collapse, kayaked to him immediately, and was able quickly to lift his head from the water and call for help. He and I, with the help of a bystander, were able to pull him onto the bank and, finding no pulse or respiration began 2-man CPR 4-5 after his collapse. We continued CPR until paramedics arrived about 45 minutes later. They were unwilling to ride in my tandem canoe the 60 feet of moving flat water across the Creek to the victim, declaring that there was no hope of reviving him. The Gilmer County coroner's report confirmed that he had had a massive heart attack. He had a history of heart disease but was ostensibly fit.

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