Accident Database

Report ID# 18286

  • Equipment Trap
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

From: Barbara Brown <>
Subject: Little Falls
Date: September 6, 2017


The most serious river rescue I’ve been involved with in a long time happened yesterday. September 3.Little Falls Sunday. Level 2.97. Group led by Mark Brenneman. Participants Ursy and Carter Hearn, Barb Brown, Larry Lampert, Ann Kibbler, Gineen, Candice Blasé (first timer), Jim Long, Bill Branson.

First seven boats ran Z channel without incident. Ursy spilled just after the big hole. She tried to roll as the boat hit the little ledge. The roll failed. The water was so shallow, she couldn’t get her paddle to the other side of the boat. She washed down  the shallow runout  upside down  and pinned a large rock river left. Ursy was against the rock, still in the boat. Time passed. We were becoming concerned. The boat eventually floated downstream. It became apparent that Ursy was trapped upstream of the rock. But how? As I watched, her body went under water, then her head. She was unable to raise her head.
I started screaming for help. Larry  jumped out of his C-1, and negotiated the fast water next to the rock. He was able to reach her and lift her had out of the water  but could not extricate her. What were we watching? A foot entrapment? No, her sprayskirt was caught!!! Bill Branson  was on the other side of the channel and crossed the fast current successfully on foot. He was able to reach the spray skirt and pulled it off the rock. Ursy floated down, face up. She was hurriedly pulled to shore and all were relieved to find her very shaken and bleeding from a cut on her hand, but otherwise intact. She looked at me and promised never to run this section alone again. After about ten minutes she was recovered enough to continue the trip. She paddled cautiously but successfully.
THANK YOU that the right people were in the right place at the right time or this would have had a  tragic end! Thank you Bill and Larry for your heroics.
There are so many what ifs here?
What if the group had scattered as it often does with no-one  at the bottom of Z-Channel? What if Larry hadn’t been there and nobody could quickly  exit their boat to reach her and get her head above the water.
It is imperative when we reach a rapid that might capsize someone that we wait (no matter how good or experienced we think the paddlers are.) It is imperative that no-one be alone in a remote part of the river. It is imperative that we act quickly, decisively and intuitively when these rare life threatening incidents occur.


From Ursy Potter:

I had a bazaar experience on Potomac River Z Channel and it needs to be reported. The question in my mind is always what went run and how to do it better next time. Since Jim Long got caught in the same drop, same rocks the following week but didn't get caught as deeply on the rocks he was able to roll up. At low level this is a spot to be wary of. I had watched EJ's excellent UTube video on boofing the night before and as I ran the drop I kept his actions in mind. I clearly need further encouragement from Steve-o McKone on the best technique to boof the drop because my last stroke on the right sent me left toward the shallow rocks. The river was higher two days earlier when I ran it fine but this time I was capsized by the shallow rocks.

I tried to roll twice but was getting pummeled by the shallow rocks. I eventually had to get out of my boat and my sprayskirt got caught on a rock so I was force facing upriver with my head being forced underwater. Luckily I was wearing my nose plugs because the forceful water was rushing directly on my exposed face. Larry Lemper immediately got out of his open canoe and brought my head to the treasured high oxygen environment but could not reach my caught spray skirt. Bill Branson quickly got out of his kayak and released the spray skirt. He emailed me that he was delighted and relieved to see my quick smile and know that I was okay.

Luckily it was in a period of cool weather and I was wearing my long sleeved paddle jacket because I knew I had a bad slash on my right arm and banged up my left ribs at some point on the shallow rocks. I didn't mention this to anyone until we reached Fletchers and I changed to my tee shirt. On the way down I was looking for rocks to practice boofing. I am greatly appreciative to the group for their quick actions. If I had been alone the only way to save myself would have been to extract myself from the spray skirt. I hope I would have had the presence of mind to do that but who knows? Much better to have my river heroes by my side.


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