Accident Database

Report ID# 17

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

On January 14, 1983 Ted Davis lost his life on a commercial rafting trip down the Bio-Bio River in Chile. The river was high, with the water level estimated at 20,000 cfs. The accident occurred in Lost Yak Rapid (Class V), one of the most difficult drops on the river. It is separated from Lava South Rapid (Class V) by several hundred yards of fast moving Class III.

The outfitter had prepositioned a chase raft, two safety kayakers, and three rope throweres at the bottom of Lost Yak. Mr. Davis and another rafter sitting in front of the raft fell out part way down the rapid. The other man was pulled in quickly, but Mr. Davis swam the rest of the drop. He was pursued by the safety kayaker, a world-class paddler. Mr. Davis grabbed the end loop when it was offered, but could not assist further in the rescue. At one point the kayaker brought him to a midstream rock. He asked him to grab the rock, but there was no response and the current pushed them both downstream.

As they approched the right shore the kayak broached on a rock.Mr. Davis held on as the current forced him under water until he lost consciousness and let go. He was washed into Lava South with a raft in hot purrsuit. Theyt chased him through the next two rapids, Cyclops and Last Laugh. They found his PFD in an eddy just downstream. His body was found five days later by local authorities.

Source: Mike Hipsher, NOC Tripleader

1. Ted had been rendered helpless by a punishing swim through Lost Yak. His inability to assist in his rescue made the job of helping him almost impossible.

2. Lost Yak is difficult because it is wide and runs out straight. Other rapids are narrower and the current pushes swimmers to one side of the river or the other.

3. At high levels it may be advisable to carry Lost Yak. There are sneak chutes that can be used if needed,

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