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Accident Database: Accident #30383

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Date: 2018-05-15
Victim: Delmer Melvin "Dale" Garratt
Victim Age: 56
River: French Broad
Reach #:
French Broad [NC]
med
00h49m
Section: 6. NC Route 251 to Route 1634
Location: Ledges Park
Gauge:
River Difficulty: II+
Cause Code(s): Pinned in Boat against Rock or Sieve
Injury Type(s): Does not Apply
Factors Code(s): Solo Paddling
Age: 56
Experienced/Inexperienced: Inexperienced
Private/Commercial: Private
Boat Type: Whitewater Kayak
Group Info:
Other Victim Names:
Detailed Description:

Synopsis:

Rescue teams responded to a Ledges park, a small section of class II+ rapids popular for attaining, playing and skills development just outside of Asheville, NC. Water levels were average, USGS French Broad at Ashville was just below 2000cfs and water temperature and weather was seasonal. 

Rescue teams extracted Mr. Garratt from a “small” whitewater kayak that was pinned on rocks in the lower sections of Ledges Park below the play hole. The rescue team extracted him from a purple and moss green colored boat, he was wearing a helmet and lifejacket.

His previous experience on rivers appears to have been limited to recreation style sit on-top kayaks. “Dale” Garratt purchased a 1990’s era playboat according to his Facebook posts on 5-12-18 matching the description of the boat. Basic skills of boat control and ability to successfully wet exit most likely contributed to this accident. “Dale” was paddling solo and the events leading up to the fatality will remain unknown.

Social Media:

Matt Jackson via Facebook: I spoke with a deputy from Buncombe Sheriff about 30 minutes ago at Ledges River Park where it occurred, and this is what we were told. At Ledges Park, more or less directly out from the parking lot. Boat was pinned on a rock or multiple rocks with the kayaker still in the boat and leaning upstream. He had a helmet on and there were no 'apparent' injuries per the deputy. The boat was not recovered and floated downstream. No description of the boat. Law enforcement believes that he put on at the park and not at a separate location further upstream.


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Matthew Walzirmingham Canoe Club via Facebook

Most of you have already read that another Kayaker died while kayaking. This time it wasn't on crazy class 5 it was a class two section of the French Broad. The kayaker name was Dale Garratt of Lakeland FL. After my research into the matter it is my belief that a lack of knowledge of white water and kayaking contributed to this man's death. Dale had just graduated from sit in recreation boat to a slicey precetion kayak. He must have thought that it wasn't very different from his sit in receration boat.

From reading about him he was a recovered drug addict a born again Christian and had written a book that has help many many people get their life straight. His trip to the French Broad was part to visit with friends and to celebrate life. He documented with pictures his new boat and the French Broad river at ledges park the day before and the morning of his passing. He was very excited! It is very very sad that this man died while kayaking because I think it could have been different. If he only knew the slicey little boat was nothing like his recreation boat. If people he had met had encouraged him to take a white water kayak class. If someone had encouraged him to take the boat to a lake first. If he had someone kayaking with him. 

Kayakers - please strike up a little conversation with people you meet getting on white water. You might be able to save someone's life just by having a two minute conversation.

The picture is the playboat boat the Dale Garratt just bought. He took this picture while he was there at the French Broad.

               According to his FB posts he purchased a playboat ("Mr. Clean") on May 12th

Media Reports:

UPDATED: Kayaker identified in French Broad River death:

By Sam Degrave and Karen Chavez, The Citizens-Times

 

Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office investigators pulled the body of a pinned kayaker from Ledges River Park outside of Asheville on Tuesday, marking the fourth kayaking death on Western North Carolinarivers so far this year, the deadliest for paddling accidents in decades.

The victim was identified as Delmer Melvin Garratt, 56, of Lakeland, Florida.

Officials on scene at 1080 Old Marshall Highway responded to the call for assistance reporting an overturned kayak at 10:13 a.m., according to a statement from the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies were dispatched to the scene at 10:26 a.m., with the first deputy arriving on-scene five minutes later. 

By that point, a rescue swimmer with Buncombe County Emergency Services had already tried and failed to make it out to the flipped kayak, said Emergency Management Planner Angie Ledford. 

The current was too strong for the swimmer, who is a part of the county's urban search and rescue team, a 94-member unit that specializes in "anything from water rescues to land search and structure collapse," Ledford said. 

Forty-two members of the team are trained in swift water rescue. Several of them were called into action Tuesday. At about 11:15 a.m. a rescue team approached the kayak in a Zodiac, a small inflatable boat. They were able to free the kayaker and recover his body and boat. That rescue effort took about 30 minutes, Ledford said.  

Intial report from WLOS

Rescue crews recover body of pinned kayaker in French Broad River

by Karen Wynne

Rescue crews are responding to the French Broad River where a kayaker has reportedly been pinned. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) —  Rescue crews are responding to the French Broad River where a kayaker was pinned and drowned. The male victim has not yet been identified; his identity will be released after a next of kin have been notified. 

The incident happened on Tuesday morning near Ledges River Park on Old Marshall Highway. The call for assistance reporting an overturned kayak was made via 911 at 10:13 am Tuesday morning; deputies were dispatched to the scene at 10:2.6. am, with the first deputy arriving at 10:31 a.m.

When News 13 arrived, there were numerous rescue squads present. Asheville Fire and Rescue, Reems Creek Fire Department, French Broad Volunteer Fire Department and Weaverville Fire Department all participated in the recovery effort.

Angie Ledford of Buncombe County EMS said a rescue swimmer was sent in, but after spending about 10 minutes in the water, he was unable to get to the kayak, which was about 50 feet offshore. Responders then tried using a rescue boat.

Ledford said the current on the French Broad is working giving rescue workers some challenges. She adds that this part of the French Broad River is not known as a dangerous area for kayakers, but they have had to do occasional rescues near Ledges River Park.

The kayaker was alone, authorities say, and there were no friends or family on the scene. On Tuesday afternoon, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office investigators are currently on the scene at Ledges River Park, investigating. Authorities say the investigation into this incident is preliminary, active and ongoing. 

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