Accident Database

Report ID# 31

  • Swim into Rock or Sieve
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

Sherry Hays, wife of well-known kayaker Vince Hayes, drowned in Staircase Rapid on the North Fork of the American River. This poular Class IV California run is known for uts undercut rocks and sieves. The second drop of Staircase has a big boulder that blocks the left-hand side of the river. There is a four-foot falls on the right. At the low 700 cfs flows encountered that day a ring of boulders forms a basin on the upstreamn side of the boulder. The maine tongue of water grazes this basin. Rafts have to enter the upper drop on the right and then move quickly to avoid this area.

Ms. Hayes, an experienced river guide, was in her second week of familiarization runs when her raft got swept into the basin and wrapped against the boulder. The other guides in her raft flushed free, but she dropped into the basin and disappeared. She was pinned beneath the rock. River traffic was stopped for two hours as people worked lines to try and free her. Finally she washed out into the pool below. CPR was initiated, and she was rafted to the takeout where an ambulance waited. But it was all too late.

Source: Carl Trost, Sierra Club River Touring Section.

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