Accident Database

Report ID# 315

  • Swim into Strainer
  • Hypothermia
  • Cold Water
  • High Water

Accident Description


"The Waterfalls"; E. Fork of Sixmile Creek

Near Hope, AK : June 6, 1993

DESCRIPTION: The East Fork of Sixmile Creek was running extremely high on June 6, 1993, due to an overlap of the snowmelt and glacier melt season. Two Anchorage kayakers were scouting a stretch along theSew ard Highway when they saw a raft carrying five people heading downstream. They saw the flip, and knowing that bad rapids lay downstream, launched their kayaks and attempted the rescue. One woman managed to swim to shore and climb out of the gorge; a man was able to hang on to some scraggly bushes at the base of a steep cliff. Kayaker Jim Deihl headed downstream in pursuit of two people who were last seen clinging to their raft. 

"I knew that the two people holding onto the raft weren't going to make it because the water downstream is terribly violent. By the time we reached them I saw what appeared to be a gear bag floating downriver. Then I saw the hair. It was Lanier Hays. I grabbed his shoulder and tried to get a response  but couldn't get anything. Then I saw a second swimmer nearby. I told her I couldn't help her friend right now, and got her to climb up of the rear deck of my kayak."

At that point his paddling partner, Riley Cronk, reported that he had rescued another man who had a head injury and was disoriented. Cronk said he would go for help while Deihl continued downstream. "Twenty minutes later I came upon the raft stuck in a strainer. I saw Lanier face down, I tried to turn him over but wasn't able to. I put the sleeve of his jacket between my teeth, dragged him to shore, and pulled him up on the river bank. I cut off his life vest and started CPR. There was no pulse. He was probably face-down for a good half-hour before I reached him."

After a brief resuscitation effort he ran to the road and flagged a car. Hanging his life vest on a tree to mark the spot, he returned and continued the resuscitation efforts. Medics arrived, took over, and transported the victim to Providence Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Volunteer firefighters and rescue squad personnel from Bear Creek and Girdwood arrived to assist the survivors. One man, clinging to rocks and branches at the base of a riverside cliff on the opposite side from the road. He had been there for 45 minutes. Firefighters were lowered to the top of the cliff by helicopter where they rappelled to the survivor's position. A pully system was used to raise him to safety.     

SOURCE: Anchorage Daily Times

ANALYSIS: This party lacked the experience needed to be attempting this section. Raft flips put many people in the water, and without a back-up boat the situation was very precarious. Without the alert intervention of local kayakers two others would almost certainly have drowned.

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