Accident Database

Report ID# 3467

  • Impact/Trauma
  • Other
  • Other

Accident Description

When Jesse Coombs ran Oregon's 101-foot Abiqua Falls in March, suffering a collapsed lung.

Here's his account in Paddling Life

Coombs Reports from the Field

My shoulder was tweaked when the paddle was ripped from my hands. I assume the front paddle blade caught some water and pulled the paddle which pulled my shoulder.

This is what happened with my lung. I spent 94 feet falling and accelerating. I then hit the water and spent 20 feet decelerating. It?s basically a small car crash. I took a big breath at the top of the falls and held my breath to the bottom. Imagine a balloon full of air. That's what the lung is like. Then when I hit the bottom there was a huge compression of the balloon, my lungs. The air needed to escape so it tore a small hole in my right lung. When that happens some air escaped into the plural cavity each time I breathed. That air eventually grows and gains pressure and pushes down on the lung. The doctor inserted a tube in my chest to allow the air in the plural cavity to escape.The lung fully re-inflated within two days and I was cleared for full activity within a week.

I've known the risks of big drops all along. The person who taught me to kayak, legend Eric Brown, told me from the beginning he never goes over waterfalls over 20 feet because higher than that and the forces are too big even if the line is perfect. Like any 'extreme' athletic endeavor there are risks involved. Sometimes those risks are realized, sometimes they aren't.

When you're 20-something you're more bendable and heal faster, and you feel invincible. I'm not 20-something any more. I try to weigh the 'feat' very closely with the risks and how well I think I can do the line. In this case I had an almost perfect line. But even so I sustained two injuries. I try to re-assess every time I look at a big drop, and I try to make sure I keep my ego squarely out of the decision process.?

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