Accident Database

Report ID# 366

  • Caught in a Natural Hydraulic
  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • Inadequate Equipment
  • Solo Paddling

Accident Description


West Branch Near Colden (outside Buffalo) N.Y.: January 13, 1995

DESCRIPTION: The body of Justin Van Ness, a 25 year old kayaker, was pulled from the West Branch of Cazenovia Creek not far from his West Falls home. After his parents reported him missing, sheriff's deputies found pieces of his boat floating in the creek and back-tracked. The body was found recirculating at the base of a steep ledge which acted similar to a low-head dam.

SOURCE: Bob Glanville, AWA and The Buffalo News

ANALYSIS: (Glanville) The victim and I live in a very small town, but neither I or any of the local boaters knew him. Clearly he was not a regular local paddler. He was paddling a glass boat made by Old Town in the 1970's. One of my paddling acquaintances talked with a member of the volunteer rescue squad and learned that he wore no life vest, helmet, or cold weather protection. He was reportedly found in a hydraulic below a 6 foot high ledge. There is a nasty river wide strainer just upstream which may have caused the accident. I have run the drop at high water without difficulty and was surprised that it would hold a body.

Mr. Van Ness was probably not an experienced kayaker. He was paddling in cold water without proper equipment and this, as much as the strainer and hole, is what got him into trouble.

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