Accident Database

Report ID# 29943

  • Pinned in Boat against Rock or Sieve
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

Wade Harrison via Facebook
2 hrs · 

I’m going to do the best I can to give my accounts of what happened on the Green River Narrows at Go Left Rapid. Sorry took couple days I know the Green gets paddled 100s times a week and everyone want to know some first hand accounts. So something needs to be said.

I want to start off I was not in Matthew’s group that day. I was paddling with Grady behind their group. We stayed back and ate lunch while they were putting on. Time had past from us putting on after them. So everything is after the actual pin happened. I don’t know all that went on before I was there. I have been told but I was not there so a lot of that will be cleared up later. I will try to focus mostly what I was involved in.
Just to clear the air Matthew Ray flat pinned his kayak underwater at Go Left rapid Saturday May 5 2018. His left leg was entrapped in the kayak and could not get out and was eventually overcome by water and drowned still in the boat. Many attempts to save him by his group were made with no luck. He was pinned dead center of the rapid off the dome, looks like bow dropped and his boat became severely flat pinned. I’m very familiar with Go Left and know how this happened that I know. Also to note he was paddling a low volume kayak and the boat did not fold or the bulkhead collapse. His left leg was broken and pushed at 90 degree angle under/against the bow wall. He was a very skilled kayaker that has run that rapid 100 times. Water level was 9” on the stick it was later day around 3-5pm?

Grady and I were down at the pool above Whaletail just hanging back taking our time. Steve’s group caught up with us there. We chatted a bit and all just kind of paddled down together from there. Steve’s group dropped Boofers and we stayed back to give them time to clear. I ran center Boofers and as soon as I came around Boofers rock I saw Jeremy standing on Go Left rock holding a rope waving his hand. I seen Steve’s crew getting out very fast and I didn’t see Matt my heart sunk. I just knew right away Matt’s pinned his boat in center but probably ok. I went down to the river right eddy jumped

out grabbing my rope and pulley gear out my boat. Ran down and Steve gave me the no good signal.


I jumped down to the bottom rock close to the hole and member of Steve’s group was there and told me it’s Matthew and he flat pinned and its been awhile he’s gone. For some reason I was thinking awhile means like 10 to 20mins? Later found out not the case. I wanted to think there was hope and yelled for Grady to come up and help. Going to live bait out and get him out there. I’m very familiar with Go Left and the rock that pins boats you can stand on in the center. I just wanted to get my hands on him and try to get him out and start CPR. We all worked fast to set up ropes and I jumped out to center rock and was able to get hands on him. I grab him and pulled with everything I had I knew something was wrong. I dove under and felt his left leg was still in the boat and I tried to free it but could not. I grab him by his right hand and neck shook and pulled with all I had still no luck. I knew at that point only way was to unpin the boat or pull him out upstream out with a rope.


I yelled for more ropes tied one to him and reached back and unhooked the one attached to my harness and went under and clipped that to the bow grab loop. Came up and told all to hold up and dove over Go Left rock and swam to the bank and ran up. Explained to everyone what the situation was under there and if we pull boat and him same time one will most likely come free. We all pulle

d and Matt and his boat came out but his left leg was still in the boat and right leg was completely out.



We ferried boat over to the eddy right. I slide down to the boat and used my foot to try to free his left leg while holding the bow grab loop but didn’t fully dislodge it. I seen his leg was at a 90 degree angle and was visibly broken. It was not past the bulkhead. Boat was still in good shape had little more piton on the bow nose but still looked ok. His leg from knee down was between the bow wall and side of the boat very usual entrapment. Most likely happened on impact? I fell in the water it was very deep there and yelled to ferry him over to river right bank. At that moment he came right out of the kayak. We all grab the rope that was attached to him and by this time EMS was running down the river left bank. We got a kayaker in the water to ferry that rope over to EMS they pulled Matt across to river left side. And started CPR but it was too late he had been under a very long time.



I’m sure we all can learn from this. Everyone did the best they could with a very bad situation. There were lots of people involved. We all worked together as one hell of a team. There’s always what if’s when these things happen. I want to move on from this and a Big thank you to everyone that reached out to all us involved. Watch each others back out there and let’s play safe. 


RIP Matthew Ray you will be miss buddy…


Asheville kayaker, 20, drowns in Green River Narrows

By Staff

Posted at 11:09 AM  

A 20-year-old kayaker from Asheville died Saturday while kayaking with friends on the Green River Narrows. Matthew Ray became trapped under the water at about 3 p.m. Saturday when rescuers received a call and responded to the scene.

The Polk County Sheriffs Office was also called to the reported drowning.

Ray’s death comes on the heels of at least two other kayaking deaths this year. A kayaker died last weekend after an accident on the Linville River. Forestry officials said Burton Greer IV, 34, of Atlanta, was an avid whitewater paddler. He died Saturday night, April 28.

U.S. Forest Service officer Wade Keener says Greer was kayaking with a friend when his kayak got stuck between rocks and overturned. Officials have said the river was unusually swollen after recent rains.

On March 3, 50-year-old Maria Noakes of Bryson City died as she paddled down the Cheoah River with her youngest son and two of his friends. All were considered expert paddlers.


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