In Britain, a kayak is called a canoe.
Body of canoeist finally pried from Tay rapids.
A member of the recovery team on a raft, attached to a winch, attempts to dislodge the canoe. Picture by staff photographer Steve MacDougall.
THE DEVASTATED family of an experienced canoeist who died as he tackled some of the River Tay’s most notorious rapids visited the scene yesterday. Emergency crews respectfully stood to one side as the twin brother and parents of GB under-21 internationalist Simon Fletcher took some time for reflection on the riverbank. It was a rare moment of quiet as, throughout much of the day, desperate efforts to remove the 19-year-old’s body from the water at Grandtully continued. Finally at around 5.30pm—28 hours after Simon’s canoe capsized—his body was pulled from the river.
His parents travelled to Tayside from their home in Cleveland as soon as they learned of the tragedy. It is understood Simon, a member of the Tees Tigers canoe club, was visiting the area with his twin and was set to participate in an event at the site this weekend. Dozens of emergency service personnel gathered on the banks of the river shortly after first light yesterday as recovery attempts recommenced. However, for a second day running, repeated efforts to pull the teenager’s body from the treacherous, cold waters failed. Just 90 minutes before the recovery operation was set to be called off for a second night, the body was brought to the shore. It is understood rescue crews eventually managed to break up Simon’s canoe before plucking his body from the wreckage.
The teenager had become trapped under rocks amid the fast-flowing rapids of Lower Grandtully on Wednesday. Initial frantic efforts to rescue him were in vain and, as an air pocket that surrounded him gave way, the last chance to pull him alive from the cold waters disappeared. A fire and rescue spokeswoman said a number of local crews returned to the scene yesterday. “We arrived at the site in the morning for a rendezvous with other emergency service personnel,” she said. “Two water rescue teams from Perth attended, along with the heavy rescue team and a command support unit. Also in attendance were two water rescue teams from Kingsway in Dundee.”
With the water levels still high, the bid to pull Simon’s body from the raging torrent was fraught with difficulty. It was only after part of the canoe broke up that rescue teams were finally able to bring the body ashore. A police spokesman said that a specialist liaison officer had been appointed to assist the teenager’s heartbroken family.
Nobody from the Tees Tigers club, which is based in Cleveland, would comment on the tragedy. For the second day running the recovery efforts captured the attention of dozens of onlookers, heaping further pressure on rescue crews. Meanwhile, shocked water sports enthusiasts who had gathered in Perthshire ahead of a national championship this weekend talked of their sadness. “This really is a crazy accident—it is not a case of somebody being inexperienced and getting caught out,” one kayaker told The Courier. “I suppose it just shows it could happen to the best of us, and it is a real tragedy. “Obviously everybody’s thoughts are with his family. “I heard his brother was up here with him, and it must be an absolute nightmare for them all.” The river around Grandtully is a big draw for paddle-sport enthusiasts and hosts national ranking competitions.
One such event—the Grandtully “Premier Double,” scheduled to take place this weekend—has been cancelled. A statement on the Slalom UK website said, “Due to the tragic accident at Grandtully, and as a mark of respect to family and friends, we have decided not to hold the race this weekend.”
Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser said, “This is sad news and a real tragedy for the family and friends to lose someone in this way.” He added, “Our sympathies are with the young man’s family and friends at this difficult time. “The whole community will be shocked...” Mr Fraser said the death appeared to have resulted from a freak accident. “People who run kayaking and canoes on the River Tay take the utmost care and ensure that safety is the first concern,” he said. “I pay tribute to the emergency services who have worked tirelessly throughout this tragedy,” he added.
Simon is the second person to die on a river in Scotland this week. Student Emily Parker (20), from Doncaster, was killed when her kayak overturned on the River Coe in the Highlands on Tuesday.