WAUTAUGA VERTICAL PIN
One of our group got vertically pinned with water over his head yesterday in Knuckles. We got him out and out of the gorge but his boat is still there. Its completely underwater in the slot about 8-10 feet off the left bank. I'm thinking it'll be there until the water gets really low. He is ok but it was the worst pin I have ever seen. He was underwater for 2+ minutes, no idea how he survived. Be careful in case the boat shifts or folds. Its a light blue old school long boat.
He is going to the doctor today to have his knees examined, both were bent backwards by the pressure. Still don't know how he finally came out, my only guess is that he started going limp/passing out and that allowed his body to relax enough to fall out by water pressure. When I got him out of the water, he was conscious but incoherent. We helped him out of the gorge where a nice farmer/local took him to the road.
More details... Boater 1 ran Knuckles first, then Boater 2 went down. I wasn't watching Boater 2 run, but when things looked clear I then ran the drop, followed by another boater. As I was coming over the drop, I could see Boater 2 pinned and completely under water. When I eddied out to look, all I could see was the boat completely submerged in the drop and a heads-down pin that looked extremely grave. As I paddled upstream to check his head came up and created an air pocket (with a huge rooster tail). The other two boaters were on river left getting out, and I got out on river right. About the time that I was able to throw a rope over the drop, he flushed out. The other two boaters did a great job of getting him to shore before flushing downstream further. Once he was on shore, everyone worked together to make a plan and get out of there. I am very grateful for the assistance of everyone involved, especially the farmer that helped us out. This is such a shock when something like this happens, and you find yourself scrambling to figure out what to do.
This pin spot is particularly difficult to get to, and frankly I believe that his ability to extricate himself from the boat is probably what saved his life. I'm just not sure that we would have been able to get him out given the difficulty of reaching the spot and the power of the water. Still, I would like to hear any advice anyone has on rescue techniques for such situations.
Follow up: I just spoke to Boater 2 and he is in the hospital getting checked out. Doesn't look like there are going to be any problems with water in the lungs... mostly the knees. Thankfully, this story looks to have a happy ending. T Just got the preliminary diagnosis. Left knee broken in two places. Seems to have folded forward, thigh to shin. This is probably what happened that allowed him to flush from the boat. Looking back now, I can't believe that he was able to do what he did to get out of the gorge. The doctors couldn't believe it either. This also would help to explain him passing out and throwing up on the drive home.
I'm starting to realize that I/we really didn't understand the gravity of the situation. To give you an idea of how he made it out, we first duct taped his knee up as best we could. He put his elbow pad on his knee, and that provided some protection. He told me that he tried to have two of the others help him "walk" up, but the pain was too much so he decided to crawl. (BTW This guy is old school, and VERY tough.) By the time I had paddled out, got the car, and met up with the others, he had used half of a broken paddle (another story) to splint the knee.