Accident Database

Report ID# 339

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • Inexperience
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description


Swatara Creek near Harrisburg, PA : December 20, 1992

DESCRIPTION: Two men were killed on December 20th after attempting to run a small dam owned by a water treatment plant. Daniel Campbell, 31, and Joseph Kirst, 37, had been paddling canoes for years. They knew the area well and intentionally shot the dam. They were caught in the hydraulic along with the canoe after it capsized. A second canoe attempted a rescue; both men floated out unconscious and were recovered by volunteer firefighters who were called to the scene. Life jackets were stowed in the boat, but not worn. Although the water temperature was 38°, no cold weather gear was worn. The Pennsylvania Fish Commission reported evidence of alcohol involvement.

SOURCE: Dan Martin, Pa. Fish Commission; Associated Press

ANALYSIS: The danger of low-head dams is often underestimated with fatal results. The fact that PFD's were not worn suggests inexperience. Alcohol was consumed, and this may have contributed to the pair's overconfidence and/or poor judgement.



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