Incident on the Dead River Date: 9/7/2006
From the New England Paddler's Message Board
Contact info for the reporter: Skip Morris firstname.lastname@example.org
(I'm leaving out most of the names for the time being until I get permission.) I did not personally witness everything, but all the details for things not witnessed were obtained first hand by direct witnesses or participants. It was a private raft trip organized by a well-known boater. The trip included at least one newbie, so several experienced boaters were recruited to join the raft. They put-on at the usual place above Spencer's. The release level was 5500 I believe. I had been chatting with several members of this group earlier in the morning at the take-out and then at the put-in. My group put on shortly after this raft group.
I did not see them again until we reached the take-out. At the bottom of Mile Long Rapid the raft went into a hole and either flipped or most of the occupants were washed out. As they collected the pieces they realized that one person was missing. (Note: This section of the river at the bottom of Mile Long is also where a fatility occured two years ago.) The missing person was an experienced boater.
A short time after the accident the commercial raft trip from Magic Falls Rafting arrived. The lead raft was being piloted by Magic Falls owner Dave Neddeau. Dave noticed a group of people along the side of the river who appeared to be having a problem. Dave told me that there is a hole/hydraulic a little below Mile Long that while small, is particulairly strong and in the past has held one of his rafting customers who was unable to get out on their own. He was pointing out this feature to someone else as they were passing by and were surprised to see a body in the hydralic. The victim was floating face down with arms spread to the side.
Dave pulled over and signaled to other rafts the problem. The second raft in his group was too far right to recover the body. As the third raft approached the body floated free of the hole. Dave's raft went after and recovered the victim. The victim was not responsive, his eyes were wide open, his color was described by Dave as "purple, not blue", and by another person as "the same shade as the blue jeans you're wearing". However he did have a pulse and rescue breating was started immediately. The other members of the victiim's group are reported to have said he was in the water around 4 or 5 minutes. (I've heard both numbers.)
Dave reported that victim's raft passed the Magic Falls trip when they stopped below Elephant Rock as the Magic Falls group was "getting ahead of the water". Dave also said that on this particular day they were a little bit ahead of their normal schedule. Had they been on their usual schedule they would not arrived for another 15 minutes and this person would not have survived. About 15 minutes later the rafting trip from Northern Outdoors arrived. They were sent downriver with instructions to call for help and have the ambulance meet the rescurers at the Magic Falls river access.
Some time during this the victim regained consciousness. He was reported to be in pain, unable to see, and having difficulty taking with a bruise or lacaration to his jaw, possibly either a broken jaw or other injury to the inside of his mouth (he may have bitten the inside of his mouth as well). He may have broken his ribs as well as there was pain in that area.
The injury to his face/head has mystified the paddlers who were discussing the situation afterwards. The victim always wears a helmet with full face mask. He still had it on when he was pulled from the water. The victim was strapped to a paddle and his neck stabliized. The Magic Falls people swapped people around and put a number of stronger paddlers in Dave's raft with the victim. They then proceded downriver as quickly and safely as possible (ie, going down the right side of Poplar, etc.). Some time into this trip he started spitting up (or draining) blood from his mouth or nostrils.
The ambulance was waiting when they arrived at the take-out. Oxygen was administred immediately. He was still unable to see. At some point the Life Flight helicopter arrived and he was transported to a hospital in Bangor. It was reported that during the flight his vision improved enought so he could see the faces of the EMTs working on him. And on Monday one member of his group reported that when they called his hospital room he was well enought to answer the phone. This person is very-very lucky. It is only due to quick actions of the Magic Falls people (and the fact they were ahead of schedule) that he survived. The next group did not arrive for another 15 minutes by which time it would have been too late.