Accident Database

Report ID# 3326

  • Health Problem
  • Heart Attack / Heart Failure
  • Other

Accident Description

Eyewitness account: A man collapsed while paddling Stoney Creek in Western PA on May 15, 2010.

Tom Bonafini, 59, fipped below the "Third Ugly Sister" after lunch and did not roll or bail out. Friends paddling with him held his head above water; he was unconscious and gasping for air. Other paddlers arrived and wrestled him ashore where a paddling doctor began CPR. A cell phone call to 911 gave rescuers his location, but the spot was inaccessible. He was loaded into a raft and transported downstream to first responders. Cause of death: heart attack


May 15, 2010 Kayaker dies during Rendezvous run

Bernie Hornickbhornick Johnstown, PA Tribune Democrat


TIRE HILL — Kayakers, fire and medical personnel struggled for two hours Saturday afternoon but couldn’t save the life of a boater who apparently suffered a heart attack on the Stonycreek River near Tire Hill. The remote location slowed efforts by rescue personnel who hiked, used an inflatable boat and drove an all-wheel-drive “gator” in a futile attempt to save the unidentified kayaker. "A couple of his buddies were with him (kayaking) and noticed he rolled over,” said Rick Massimo, chief of Conemaugh Township (Somerset County) Volunteer Fire Company. “They noticed he was unconscious.”


The kayaker eventually was brought to shore, but even then it took time to get the man to the ambulance. “He was breathing and coughing and coughing up water,” Massimo said. Kayakers at the scene performed CPR. Massimo said his department was dispatched at 3:25 and the man was loaded into the ambulance near Carpenters Park Road at 5:26. Massimo termed the site “definitely remote,” and said personnel had to break through two locked gates to get to the dying man. The attempted rescue occurred as hundreds of kayakers took to the water during the annual Stonycreek Rendezvous, which continues today.


Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller could not immediately be reached for comment. In addition to Conemaugh fire and ambulance, Massimo said five other fire companies took part. Several members of the Somerset County Water Rescue Team also assisted.

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!