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Accident Description

Non-Witness Narrative by on 2008-02-13 : Jerry was the unfortunate victim of a drowning fatality. It was mentioned that he was not wearing sufficient cold weather gear, and the cause of death was deemed to be a drowning despite the blow(s) to the head. The water temperature that day was about 45 degrees and the air temp was about 54 through the afternoon with winds around 5mph.

David Nutter (son)

From The Coastal Canoeists Message Board

Nutter, Jerry A. Saturday, December 29, 2007 Jerry Allen Nutter, age 56, of Sutherland, VA died on Saturday, December 29, 2007. He was born in Quinwood, WV, the son of the late Arnold Nutter, and was also preceded in death by a wife, Kay Stover Nutter. Mr. Nutter was an active and devoted member of Colonial Heights Baptist Church, and he loved the Lord, his family, and friends. He was employed by DuPont-Teijin Films in Hopewell, and had been with the company for over 35 years. Mr. Nutter was a very active outdoorsman, and he loved kayaking, water skiing, and the beauty of nature. He was a very devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and on two different occasions, was a single dad. Jerry is survived by his loving wife of 13 years, Janice Nutter; a son, David Nutter and wife Shelby of Richmond, VA; a daughter, Melissa Nutter Archer and husband David of Sutherland; his mother, Cora Nutter and step dad Don of Quinwood, WV; two step-sons, Greg Rasnake and wife Liza of Arlington, VA, and Kevin Rasnake of Glendale, AZ; three grandchildren, Dylan Archer, Vivian and Ana Grace Rasnake; one sister, Ivana Maceyak and husband Don of Kent, OH; two brothers, Larry Nutter and wife Patty of Oak Hill, WV, and Joe Nutter and wife Donna of Chester, VA; mother in law, Deliah Marable of Sutherland; and extended family and friends.

The family will receive friends at Colonial Heights Baptist Church on Tuesday, January 1, 2008 from 4 to 6 p.m. with a funeral service beginning at 6 p.m. A private cremation will be held at a later time. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Colonial Heights Baptist Church Choir Robe Fund in honor of Mr. Nutter’s faith in our Lord. Arrangements are being conducted by the J. T. Morriss & Son Funeral Home & Cremation Service of Petersburg, where condolences may be registered at

That is the official obituary in the Richmond Times Dispatch. It fails just like any words to describe who my father was, what he did to help so many people, what he meant to his family and friends, and how he loved me as a son and best friend. He spent his life doing the right thing, weather it benefited him or burdened him. He spent his free time with our lord on his side feeding the homeless, volunteering at church events, spending time with family all across the country, traveling and experiencing new places, and most of all he loved being on the water.

Saturday, December 29, 2007 will be a day I will never forget. I got a call from dad about 10am. He said they were going to run the bottom of the Appomattox, probably just pipeline and target rock because the water was not high enough to do the whole thing. I told him the water in the James was at 4.6ft, a reasonable level and they should come to Richmond. He informed me that Tim Kleppinger, his paddling buddy, had family coming in town so they had to be home early, and did not have time to come to Richmond. "No problem dad, we will get together soon. With the rain forecast for Sunday I am sure the Appomattox will be rising and the James will have water for a while anyway", were my exact words. So I get a call at 10:30 saying they had changed their minds and were on the way to Richmond. "Great I will see you at the takeout", I said.

When we got to the put-in there was a group just finishing the upper. We chatted and I introduced my dad to some of the Richmond paddling community. He had been to the James about 20 times, but we always seemed to miss the big groups going out, so he did not get a chance to meet everyone in Richmond. So the three of us put in at Reedy Creek at approximately 11:45. We paddled the normal route first break to corner to Hollywood. We got out to scout Hollywood rapid. Washing Machine was starting to churn and my dad did not want to end up in the water, so we ferried around Hollywood and went down on the river left side of the rapid without incident. That was a nice class 2 section of the river I had never run before, 4 or 5 little drops no big deal. We paddle the flat water smiling and joking the whole way. Down fish ladder and into the entrance of pipeline we went. We make our way all the way to the bottom of pipeline, right before the last drop where everyone surfs that wavehole. I am first, dad is second, and Tim is last maybe 15 yards up stream. I eddy out river behind the huge rock river right before the drop, and see my dad smiling as he enters the rapid.

This is where everything goes wrong. I do not know if the eddy line made him flip or what caused it, but he flipped right before the drop. He was a little too far right and when he flipped the river pushed him even farther right. He attempted a mid rapid roll, but failed and went directly over the large boulder that had been exposed all summer, but at this level had water flowing over and was developing a nice hole behind it.

As soon as I saw him flip I was trying to get in position to help. I peeled out of the eddy and made a beeline for my dad’s capsized boat. He was not under but for a few seconds, I caught up to him while he was still in the boogie water following the rapid. I bumped his boat in T-Rescue position, but he did not respond. I did not see a paddle or hands above the water, so I preformed a Hand of God rescue technique. I got him up on the first try, and knew right away it was serious. By this time Tim was there, and we were both screaming for him to wake up.

I told Tim we had to get him to shore and out of the water, and he agreed. We worked our way to river left, went down the next little ripple and go to the calm beach. We both jump out of our boats and dragged my father, still in his boat, on to the shore. He had a 2inch gash on the left temple area, and his chin was bruised pretty badly. He was not breathing and I could not locate a pulse. I started CPR, and told Tim to get help. I preformed CPR for about 5-10 minutes until the paramedics got there, but it seemed like an hour or more. They took over and I helped anyway I could. They were never able to establish a pulse or get him to breathe again, but they never gave up either.

We loaded him on the ambulance and they took off up the hill to MCV. The Doctors at MCV had as much luck as we did saving my fathers life. He was pronounced dead at 2pm. Everyone did what we could do, unfortunately it was not enough. I was blessed that day to be doing what I loved to do with my dad, I was blessed to be there for him to try to save his beautiful life, but I am cursed because I can not stop seeing it happen over and over in my head. I think I did everything by the book, but can not help to think what if... what if I were in an eddy below the rapid, what if I had a tow teather, what if I had taken Swift Water Rescue courses, what if there were more people on the river with us. Ultimately, it is something that I am going to have to live with the rest of my life.

David Nutter