Victim Age
Water Level
Cause Code(s)
Injury Type(s)
Factors Code(s)
Boat Type
Group Info
Other Victim Names

Accident Description

Sheriff: Feather River drowning victim's foot caught under rock

C. Johnson

PLUMAS COUNTY, CA - A 37-year-old woman died in the Feather River Sunday afternoon after her foot was caught under a rock in the water and she couldn't be freed in time. Patrol Cmdr. Gerry Hendrick with the Plumas County Sheriff's Office said sheriff's dispatch first received word of a possible rescue at 2:50 p.m. in an area west of the Bucks powerhouse in Feather River Canyon. The victim, identified as Susan Marie Kaiser, was trapped underwater with her foot caught under a rock. While emergency personnel were enroute, Hendrick said bystanders were able to free Kaiser and attempt life-saving techniques on her.

Plumas Hospital medical personnel arrived and continued CPR for more than an hour but couldn't revive Kaiser, Hendrick said. The sheriff's office is continuing to investigate what happened and an autopsy was to be performed by the sheriff's coroner's division.

From Mountainbuzz
Hans; Louisville, Colorado
NF Feather River Kayaker Drowning

Kayaker drowns in the Feather River

Suzie K., who I've known since I first started kayaking in '96 as a coworker and friend that I've lost contact with as of lately, has passed away apparently due to foot entrapment this past weekend while kayaking. From the limited news reports & nothing so far over at AW, it appears a valiant effort was put forward by those with her to attempt to resuscitate her.

Suzie was a great person who I had the pleasure of working with in the western Sierras as foresters for PG&E, as well as in the Lake Tahoe Basin for Sierra Pacific Power Co. Long since I left Tahoe, I know Suzie continued working for various agencies helping to keep Tahoe Blue by keeping the Trees Green, as well as working on several fire crews. Although, I never knew her as a kayaker (hence not knowing her skill level on the river), I know she loved the Sierras, therefore it comes as no surprise, albeit unfortunate, to hear she was paddling in the beautiful Feather River.

We can all be assured, whether there was some white-knuckled moments or not, Suzie would have always been smiling from ear to ear being on the water and in the mountains she loved. My thoughts and condolences go to her family and friends, as she will be greatly missed.


North Fork Feather Fatality Aug 29, 2010 Susan Kaiser

by Keith Kishiyama

The whitewater community can learn a couple of important things from this accident that are not covered in Sean's report. However, I want to be absolutely clear that I mean no criticism for anyone who was in involved in the effort to rescue Suzie.

Suzie was pinned in a rapid ¼ mile below the Bucks Creek Powerhouse known as “Little Knarley”. Here is a link to Dan Sadowski’s pictures of a boat pinned at the same place As can be seen in the pictures, the force of the water where she was pinned was surprisingly powerful for a relatively flat looking area.

I talked with one of the paddlers who was boating with Suzie at the time of the accident and he confirmed that she flipped in her IK on a large breaking wave in the middle of the river near the bottom of the rapid. The current forced Suzie to swim to the left to the boulders where she became pinned in a slot between the large boulder and a smaller submerged boulder. One of the paddlers in her original group of four said that the second she was pinned in the boulders, he knew it was a really bad place. He managed to get into the small pocket eddy behind the boulder and tried to pull her out. He said she was really wedged in between the boulders and there was nothing he could do. At this point he made the decision not to attempt anything heroic, which would have put himself at risk and could have made the situation worse.

Other boaters who happened to be driving by and witnessed the accident drove downstream to the takeout to get help. By the time I arrived at the scene, there was already a large group of paddlers on left shore trying to help. I saw one of the paddlers clip the tether on his rescue vest into the end of a rope and make a huge jump into the river and swim out towards the boulder where Suzie was pinned. However, the current was too strong for him to reach the boulder.

I grabbed my boat and as I was getting in the water, a woman was yelling that it had only been 10 minutes and there was still time to do CPR. I paddled out behind the boulders and saw where Susie was pinned, the force of the water was holding her head about a foot and a half underwater and she was unresponsive. I could reach down and just touch her hand but could not grab her or clip my sling onto to her. I tried again to reach down and grabbed a branch instead. It was about an inch in diameter and I managed to break it off.

At this point, the paddlers on the left shore split up into two teams, and had a rope between them. They had a paddler using his rescue vest clip onto the rope with a free sliding carabiner and the two teams tried to vector him out to the boulder. However, there was not enough room between the two teams to get the necessary angle to vector the rescue swimmer to the boulders. Also, the use of a free sliding carbiner made it very difficult, if not impossible, for the rescue swimmer to be correctly positioned. I could see that they needed to tie a knot in the rope and have the swimmer clip into the knot with his rescue vest tether. I began yelling to tie a knot and clip into the knot. The two teams pulled the swimmer back up for a second try, but he still did not clip into a knot in the rope and was again unsuccessful.

By now a team on the river right shore had ferried a rope across to river left. This rope would allow for a better angle to vector a rescue swimmer to the boulders. A second rescue swimmer clipped onto the rope, but once again used a free sliding carabiner and another attempt was made, but again it was unsuccessful. At this point, I managed to communicate to the swimmer that he needed to clip into a fixed knot.

On his next attempt the rescue swimmer clipped into a knot and was able to reach Suzie. I gave him my sling and he clipped it onto Suzie and I noticed that all the slack in my sling was immediately sucked down by the hydraulics of the sieve. I yelled for a rope and someone from shore threw one out and the rescue swimmer clipped it onto her. The swimmer was then pulled clear and I indicated to start pulling on the rope. As people started pulling on the rope, Suzie started to move and her paddle floated free, but I think the swimmer must have clipped the rope onto one of the adjustment straps on the PFD because the rope snapped free.

I still had a hold of my sling that was clipped to her and I yelled for another rope and clipped it to the sling. As they start to pull on the rope, the slack in the sling surfaced and it was wrapped around a branch that was about an inch and a half in diameter. Fortunately this branch also broke with the force of the rope and they pulled her free. It had been at least 30 minutes, maybe even 45 minutes or more, but CPR was still performed.

Reflecting back on the situation it seems that at some point in time we needed to slow the situation down and make sure no one else was going to get hurt. We had a lot of people at the scene, we had a rescue swimmer in the water and we were attempting a complicated technique to vector the swimmer to the body. In the heat of the moment, the vital detail of clipping into a knot in the rope was missed which could have lead to serious consequences, but fortunately did not. It is also clear that the paddlers in Susie’s group did the right thing by not doing something heroic and making the situation worse.

It is also important for the people who may have just read the newspaper accounts of this incident, that the paddlers on the scene performed a sophisticated rescue to get Suzie out and began CPR before emergency response arrived on the scene. This highlights how important it is to have swift water rescue training. It will be your paddling partners who can make a difference in an emergency situation.

Last edited by dansadowski; 09-23-2010 at 07:50 PM

It happened at the bottom of the long class IV below the first power house. There is a house sized boulder on river left the has a smaller rock flaked off in front of it creating a sieve. I believe that there is a small log lodged in there as well. At higher water it's not an obvious trap. If you were at the August 09 rel.ease, we pinned a boat in that rapid. Running the center line at the bottom of that rapid raises your risk profile, as you seem to get pushed through that slot if you flip. This is not the only sieve on Tobin and Lobin, so please be safe
There are photos of the pin last year to help identify the spot:

Feather River fatality 
Posted by: "Sean Norman" 
From the SwiftH2O Yahoo Groups Chat room
Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:32 pm (PDT) 
A kayaker(inflatable) was killed yesterday in Plumas County on the North Fork of the Feather River. Yesterday was a scheduled release day with about 900-1000 cfs flowing in the river. The victim was with a group of kaykers and had a swim from her boat. This particular run is class III- IV that has some technical boulder gardens. 
The incident was in Plumas County and we were requested as mutual aid. I did not speak with anyone from her particular boating group. The report I was given was that she had a swim and became trapped up against a large boulder, with a smaller partially submerged rock adjacent to the large rock. Witnesses told me that her paddle was sticking straight up in the air, and her body was wedged between the two rocks and paddle. They felt that possibly her paddle had played a role in her becoming foot or body entrapped. 
After a period of time other boaters were able to free her from the river. When we arrived( 50 minutes +) CPR was being performed on the other side of the river. We deployed our raft to paddle across the river and eddy hop to where the incident was located. A paramedic from the local ambulance service out of Quincy had been towed across by holding onto the back of a kayak. He had ceased resuscitation. We packaged her up and transported her across the river. There were several people who are affiliated with American Whitewater there who were going to follow up on the details of the accident.
The large boulder appeared to create a small pillow of water with a partially submerged rock obstructing the passage on river left of the boulder. There did appear to be a small space between the two rocks where an entrapment could take place.The initial request to our agency was for two engine companies- neither of which were trained as techs. We augmented the response with a battalion chief( a rescue team leader) and myself from our water rescue station. That gave us 10 personnel there with the Plumas County SAR team. Only the BC and I( from our agency) were techs. We were able to locate an AW representative that I knew and he recommended another private boater that helped us boat crew during the recovery. The coordination between the private boaters and fire service personnel was easy and without incident.The victim was transported to highway side and we returned to bring the paramedic and his gear back across.
We have been slowly implementing new standardized water rescue curriculum throughout our department( CAL FIRE has nearly 6000 personnel). The First Responder class was rolled out this year and has been taught at our academy and throughout our department. In Butte County we put out a DVD as a supplement the the formalized class. The DVD was focused on shore based rescuer roles and responsibilities . The DVD plays as an actual incident and through each segment of the incident the DVD pauses to emphasize topics such as; ICS, PPE, shore based rescue skills, and integration with the rescue team. 
We have had several incidents this year and in each case the engine company officer expressed the confidence they had when approaching the scene, based on the recent training they had been given. For me I was happy to arrive and find an upstream spotter and DSS set up( all in the correct PPE). I guess all our work pays off.
Sean Norman
Butte County