Accident Database

Report ID# 311

  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

On April 21, 1996 a father-daughter canoe trip on the Merrimack River ended in tragedy when their canoe overturned. At this time of year this New Hampshire river is high, fast, and cold. Several people saw the overturned canoe and two people being swept along by the swollen river and called the fire department. Using a boat, firefighters pulled Warren McLaughlin, 80, from the water ten minutes later, about a half mile downstream. He was unconscious, and not wearing a life vest. He was pronounced dead at Concord Hospital. Newspaper photos of the rescue showed mild (Class I-II) rapids in the background.

SOURCE: Manchester, NH Union Leader

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) Running high, cold rivers without a life vest or cold weather gear is a recipe for trouble. Flips are a part of river paddling, and paddlers must dress accordingly. A second boat would have made the group self-sufficient in rescue, and might have recovered Mr. McLaughlin before he drowned.

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