The Southern paddling community was rocked this past fall by the death of Shane Hulsey on the so-called "suicide" of Alabama's Little River Canyon. Mr. Hulsey, 33, was a strong Class V paddler from Birmingham who ran this section often. He ran a river education program for the Cahaba River Society's and was a swiftwater rescue instructor. On October 20th he flipped and swam in Pinball Rapid, the hardest Class V rapid on the run. Water levels were low. He was being towed by a very strong paddler, hanging onto the grab loop when he lost his grip or let go near the river left shore. He then washed through a small channel very near shore and was leg/foot entrapped.
Rescue efforts began at once. The first attempt consisted of a boater paddling up into the rapid to try and give Shane his boat to grab on to. While this was occurring, another individual was exiting his boat and positioning himself with a throw rope, which was thrown multiple times directly at Shane. Both forms of aid were unsuccessful as the current was exerting to much downward force on Shane’s upper body (he was entrapped from the waist down, facing downstream) for him to reach and hold onto either the boat or the rope. Due to the topography surrounding the location of Shane’s entrapment and the necessities of time, a dragline was not a realistic option. Upon this realization, two individuals began alternating attempts at diving into the rapid and grabbing Shane by whatever means possible and forcibly (both his PFD and his dry top were pulled off in these efforts) trying to extract him. Unfortunately, these attempts were also unsuccessful. In the end, the only way Shane could be extracted was from upstream once the river level had dropped and the current was not as strong.