Accident Database

Report ID# 2384

  • Pinned in Boat Against Strainer
  • Near Drowning
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

Kevin Domby writes: "Today on spencer heights I was vertically pinned in boneyard on a log and had a near miss. I was wedged in under the log with my legs pinned up against it and the river was crushing me," as reported by the victim, Kevin Dombey on Several other kayakers, Joe Keck, Evan Stafford, Brad Higganbottom, Nick Hinds, Kevin Fisher and Randal (no surname given) were able to free the victim from under a strainer. The information posted is pasted into the description above.

After a bit of time thinking about it, I will share my perspective on the event. It all happened so fast, but took an eternity. When all was said and done, I still thought the event was only 5 minutes long. It may have taken as much as 12 or more minutes to free our victim.

There was a bad slot on a work left to right line, where I just worked straightish towards the bottom. The line was an avoid he hole at the bottom. The deputizer followed me down and I came up on a slot blocked by a log. When I boated over the obstruction he could not see what was going on, and I dropped right into the bottom hole of bone yard digging. Damn, could I have signaled him sooner? I don't know but maybe we ought to have scouted that one, as another member of our group decided to do. And I will not forget the images that are burned in my memory. After 17 years of boating I have not had a gut wrencher, heart going out to one of your best boating partners, like this situation.

I did not see it happen but heard the whistles and yelling. So knowing where the log was, I eddied out river right and ran my ass up stream just short of falling down the scree field. Many small bushes and willows assisted me. What I came up on was the most classic case of perfect vertical pin on a larger log. Mr. D was vertical and balancing in a bench press type position trying to keep his head above the water. He seemed stable and strong when I arrived maybe 30-45 seconds after the pin (maybe longer?).

He yelled over the water level "My Legs!" He used a calm tone and saw a body on shore, helping his confidence immediately. I was huffing and puffing but took good footing, looked up stream to see the log wedged, and spied the downstream for pendulum eddies. My friend and I looked each other in the eye and I hit him from 15-20 feet out, not a tough throw at all. He caught it and tried for a few minutes to push up and informed me his skirt was popped (which I took as his skirt needs to be popped). He kept wiggling and trying to free his legs, but the current was very strong there (maybe 1/20th of the flow). Miscommunication sucks and I was the only person there that could hear and see his face. When he tried to turn to one side or the other the splash was in his eyes and mouth. We tried to decide what could help and tried to do it as fast as possible. It was really tough to hear or shout to the guys on the river left.

When I tried to pull on the rope in his hands it just put more pressure on the femur region of his left and right legs. He informed me quickly that this was a bad angle to pull from. I asked the far bank to throw a bag to him from the other side wanting to try another angle. The water pressure on the boat and the log just across the middle of the skirt was way to forceful. That is when it got me, Shit This Is Bad and We Need To Move Fast. The Duputizer was yelling, "Hurry" and starting to hold droop a bit lower. It was snowing most of the 2nd half of the run and he was in chilly water.

Get a boat on him; Joe quickly explored another option boating onto the log jamming rock. He eddied out just upstream or the river right side of the jam, in the smallest of creative micro eddies. While working to secure his boat, we all were screaming at him to hurry and get on that log now! He carefully got on the log, straddling it after determining it was solid enough. Then edged forward little by little, reaching the victim. He hooked my rope on a carabineer right to the stern of the boat. It seemed if he got it there I could lift it up, when I tried he screamed again. That damn thing was so wedged and my fellow boater was running out of strength. I was scared of pulling him from the far side up stream and letting him go straight through, and under. From my experience that can be very bad as well.

Then Evan appeared on the rock, screamed another last resort; let's try to move the log. I tied my rope off which was attached to the stern of the boat to the only tree in proximity. Then I ran my ass off up shore, dove into the drink and hopped rock to rock, waded and swam out to the micro eddy. Joe backed off the log when we determined that we would be able to move it. Then Evan and I told the victim it was time to try to free the wood. Using our legs and some old back strength too we pulled our end of the wood back up stream and lifted to the next slot where it wedged again. The Deputizer was still hopelessly pinned but just sinking a bit lower. So we got down and repeated our move, IT ALL BROKE FREE in one tense moment.

The Deputizer sprung from his boat as the log flew forward. The rope that was attached to the boat ripped the tree off the bank, pulling a rope in the river with another small piece of wood and the original large log. Exhaustion had set in. Unlike some class V boaters, including myself, he was in very peak physical condition. He was training for cardio and lifting up to this event.

As he floated down in the mayhem one rope seemed to almost take his head off when pulled between small log and boat. Another rescuer threw a bag that grazed his head. Finally Brad nailed him at the bottom of the run out. With an amazing grab by the swimmer, he was pulled in. Exhaustion and near hypothermia was apparent and the gravity of close call was felt by everyone there.

So much can be learned from these experiences, so I am sharing. The fact is, until I got called by one of my best boating partners to post; I was going to keep this one locked up a bit. It was really really scary. Being the one in his face watching and supporting. Having such a long boating history with this friend and trying many of the tricks in the book to no avail. Moments of eye contact seemed like minutes and hours. I hope these experiences do not find you, because it jars the system for a bit.

Creek boating feeds me with life, but sometimes the truth is that we do dodge death. There have been close ones I try not to admit too, but many of us have had them. Be safe, have the gear, scout, obtain experience with strong boaters, and know your skill level, and keep taking safety classes again and again.


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