I was on the 9:30 Upper Gauley trip, second boat out on a 6 boat trip. After 2-3 minutes on the water we come to Magnetic Rock. I see a boat pinned. It's a private raft; a four man Puma. First thing that gets my attention is it is pinned backwards, floor facing upstream and thwarts pinned on the rock. In 11 years I don't ever remember seeing a boat pinned like that.
I cut river left close to the rock and hit eddy. Second thing I notice is a PFD floating in the eddy, still scanning the eddy I see a woman floating with in her PFD with her face covered in blood. I head toward her, still scanning the eddy. I look upstream behind the rock and see another woman frantically clawing under the corner of the rock, then what appears to be a helmet bob up every few seconds. That quickly the woman with the bloody face becomes secondary.
I turn my boat and head to the TL who is eddied just below me. We have a plan, he heads up stream with a throw bag to head up rescue, another guide heads up after him with more rope to help. The Med Kit is open, organized and ready. Customers are being moved down to the next eddy so we don't have 30+ people watching this. The radio is brought back; it will recieve but won't transmit. A runner is sent to find another outfitter with a radio. We tell him to call EMS, get us more help, find the Park Service, and don't come back until you do. Thank God we were only 3-4 minutes by land to the put in.
It is hard to judge time in a situation like this, but I will say, if I had been looking further down stream, I probably would of seen the boat pin. It could not have happened more than 30 seconds before we got there. It took my TL and our crew 5-7 minutes to free the man, another minute to get him to shore. All that was left on him was helmet, part of his shirt and one shoe. His skin tone, dull grey, no pulse, no breathing. CPR got started. Some 5 minutes later a somewhat weak pulse. Another 15 minutes of rescue breathing and he starting breathing on his own. The pulse got a lot stronger after he started breathing. After a few minutes of a strong pulse and breathing on his own. A decision was made to more him down another 200-300 yards to another put in where EMS could get to him much easier. He had alot better skin tone by then.
About the time we got to the lower put in I could hear sirens coming down the hill from the dam. I am guessing it took EMS took maybe 10-12 minutes after word reached them. I got a update that evening, I pray they are accurate. He's still unconscious with some movement in his feet and hands.
Update 7:30 last night, still unconscious, but tried to remove the incubation tube down his throat. I also pray this means some thought process is there. I don't call this a near drowning. This man drowned and was brought back to life some 20-25 minutes later.
For those of you that don't know me, I have been guiding rafts for 11 years, 10 on the New River and Gauley. I don't tell this story to scare anybody or come off like some kind of hero. I tell it for one reason and one reason only. If you and the people around you are out there boating without basic First Aid/CPR skills, get them. I am 50 yrs. old, have been First Aid/CPR certified some 20+ years of that. I have been on the water working for 11 years and have never had to use them UNTIL LAST SATURDAY.
I have used my First Aid skills plenty of times, but never my CPR. II will do at least a yearly refresher weather they need it or not. Please be careful out there, and for God's sake tighten up that PFD. I want to thank every guide on my trip, you know who you are, you all did an outstanding job, and it made a difference in a life.
The victim, Ben Weaver, died on Tuesday Sept 29th, 2006
from the NPS Morning Report: Gauley River National Recreation Area (WV) Rafter Drowns In River Rapid On the morning of September 11th, ranger Randy Fisher was flagged down by a kayaker at the Upper Gauley parking area and was advised that there was a rescue in progress somewhere near the Tailwaters put-in. Fisher and West Virginia conservation officers attempted to determine where the rescue was taking place along the nearly inaccessible river. During the search, rafters on scene were able to locate the victim - Benjamin Weaver, 30, of Vienna, West Virginia - and get him to the river bank. Weaver was carried to an ambulance, where resuscitation efforts led to the restoration of his breathing. He was then taken to the Charleston Area Medical Center.
An investigation revealed what had happened: One of Weaver's fellow rafters had fallen into the river at an entrance rapid. While those in the boat were attempting to retrieve him, it was swept into a large undercut rock, causing it to flip and spill everyone into the river. All the rafters but Weaver were flushed out from under the rock. He was caught there and held underwater for several minutes. Weaver remained unresponsive and in critical condition in the hospital until he succumbed to his injuries on September 29th. Weaver was a chemical engineer for DuPont and a part-time raft guide. The incident occurred during one of the scheduled high water releases from the Summersville Dam for the Gauley whitewater season. A joint investigation by the National Park Service and West Virginia DNR continues.
[Submitted by Gary Hartley, Chief Ranger]