Accident Database

Report ID# 221

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description


Upper Elaho Canyon, British Columbia,

On October 5, 1993 five experienced kayakers set off to run the Upper Elaho Canyon. This run varies from class III to V, depending on the water level, with one mandatory portage. All five boaters had made the run before and were aware of the difficulties. While driving to the put-in the group stopped at an overlook to examine the rapids above the portage. The water seemed a bit higher than usual, and Steve Smaridge seemed a bit nervous, so we decided to take out a few drops further upstream than we usually did.

The first part of the run went off without incident. The group got together in an eddy to run the last drop and decided on a running order. As they headed down to the portage Steve asked a friend "How does this go again?" The friend replied, Follow me and I'll show you." But Steve pulled out ahead without really knowing the line, got too far over to the right, and went into a fairly big hole. He got worked in the hole for five seconds before flushing out. He attempted three rolls, none of which worked, before dropping into an even bigger hole and bailed out.

Two members of the group peeled out in pursuit, but could not get close enough to help. Steve grabbed a rock, but a surge carried him off. He was swept into the mandatory portage, a big rock blocking the river with all of the water flowing beneath it. Steve floated up on the other side unconscious. One of the group portaged this drop, ran a class V boulder-choked chute on river left that most people also carry, and was able to catch up with Steve and pull him out. He was blue, and had no pulse. They immediately started CPR and carried him out of the canyon, doing CPR along the way. But he was pronounced dead on arrival at Squamish Hospital.

SOURCE: Don Butler, Paddle Post

ANALYSIS: (CW) The victim clearly lost track of where he was above a big rapid just above an unrunnable drop. Boaters must resist being pressured into running drops they are not comfortable with, even if it means holding up the group. A re-scout or portage of this drop would have prevented the tragedy.

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