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Accident Description


Paddler washed through sieve on river right beside hell hole. No injuries but a very close call.

Here is my account of the near miss: This report is not intended to be an attack on anyone involved but is intended to educate. This is an account of the events and near miss that took place at Gauley Fest on September 15th, 2012. Our party ran the lower Gauley on Friday without incident, I thought at the time I conveyed the major danger spots to the group. We ran the river again Saturday with no incident up until Pure Screaming Hell. At that point I made the first mistake by not stressing the dangers of the sieve on river right. Everyone in the group had previously run the rapid and I assumed they were aware of the dangers. I told the party I would lead through the rapid and I was going to take an easy line around the holes and skip the eddy in the middle. I ran the rapid as planned and eddied out at the bottom.

The events that followed happened up stream and were conveyed to me later by those in our party. One of the members in the group flipped in the middle of the rapid above hell hole, another inexperienced paddler paddled over to help, another mistake, putting himself in danger trying to help someone in the middle of a class IV rapid. The first paddler rolled up and paddled to the middle eddy with the others in the group. The would be rescuer being unsure where he was in the rapid and fast approaching hell hole paddled toward river right toward the sieve. A kayaker standing on the rocks above the sieve videoing yelled for him to paddle away from the sieve but at that point it was too late and he pinned between the sieve and the hole where he flipped, exited the boat and washed into the sieve. Luckily for him the sieve was cleaned out prior to Gauley season and he did was through and live to tell about it.

Mistakes to learn by: Lack of conveying the danger before entering the rapid. Inexperienced paddler trying to help someone in the middle of a major rapid Kayaker videoing on the rocks did not have a throw rope