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.