Accident Database

Report ID# 202

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description


Albuquerque River: July 24, 1989

DESCRIPTION: Four teenaged boys were skateboarding in the concrete-lined bed of the Albuquerque River in Arizona when disaster hit. A flash flood roared down the riverbed and carried the boys downstream. Rescuers stretched a line across the river; one of the boys grabbed hold and held on until knocked loose by a floating chaise lounge. He was carried downstream into a dam followed by an underground section and killed. A police officer who had wrapped the rope around his arm received a disabling injury when the rope came under tension. This rescue was covered by television news and is used widely in rescue training.

ANALYSIS: This was a horrible rescue site; the police, wearing street shoes could barely keep their footing on the wet, sloping concrete banks. The officer who wrapped the line around his arm made a terrible mistake and is badly injured as a result. Rescuers should never wrap a rope around a part of their body. When the line comes under tension, the resulting pressure can cause serious injury. A positive result: the development of the "Arroyo Rescue Curtain by Sandia Laboratories. The rope, set at an angle to the current, reduces strain on the system by 75% while helping victims hold on and work their way to shore.

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