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Accident Description


Search and rescue crews recover body of a Bay Area woman Monday

who died Sunday kayaking Clear Creek.

Redding, CA Record Searchlight Posted December 10, 2012 at 9:44 a.m. The woman who died Sunday after her kayak tipped over in Clear Creek was Shelbi Danielle Arno of San Jose, the Shasta County Coroner's Office said this afternoon. Search and rescue teams this morning found Arno, 39, in a remote and rugged area of the creek west of Redding.

Rescue crews called for a Shasta County coroner about 9:30 a.m. after they rappelled down a canyon to recover Arno's body. Crews had to navigate steep canyon terrain behind a home at Potosi Drive and Mule Town Road. The house is about 15 minutes west of Grant School. A California Highway Patrol helicopter lowered a basket down to rescuers, who placed Arno's body inside before it was flown to a waiting coroner's van on Potosi Drive. Sheriff's Capt. Dave Dean said crews found Arno's body stuck in a pool around 9 a.m. They dislodged the body and let it float downstream to a dive team, who then waited for the helicopter to arrive.

Arno had been kayaking in the creek with a male friend when her boat tipped over and became lodged in the rocks shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday.Deputies said the man is in his late 50s. The two were in separate kayaks. The man was able to reach Arno and freed the kayak, deputies said, but she slipped out of it in the process, and both Arno and her kayak floated away. Initial reports said Arno may have been knocked unconscious by a rock. But Dean said today that investigators still aren't certain what happened. An autopsy will be performed either Tuesday or Wednesday, the coroner's office said.

"They were kayaking down through Clear Creek and she got into some rapids, went sideways and backwards and she capsized," Dean said. "He was able to dislodge the kayak and she came free and she continued to float downstream where she was caught in the hole where we go to her this morning."

Joe Suske was in his Potosi Drive home when the man frantically knocked on his door around 2:15 p.m. "He came up to the house distraught. He said he thought his companion had drowned," Suske said this morning. "He was all over the place; he was obviously crying and concerned." Suske called 911. Search and rescue teams combed the area Sunday afternoon but had to call off their search as darkness fell Sunday evening.

Deputies said the man and woman began their kayaking trip from the NEED Camp area below Whiskeytown Dam. Dean said today that they both were members of a kayaking club in the Bay Area. Arno had kayaked that stretch of Clear Creek about six times before Sunday, but it was the first time her male companion had attempted to do it. "Kayaking can be a high-risk sport," Dean said. "Everybody should know what their limits are. But she had kayaked this stretch before."

Redding resident and avid kayaker Ron Rogers said enthusiasts are drawn to that stretch, known as the Need Camp Run, for its beauty, challenging white water and proximity to Redding. He said the water in that area wasn't especially high Sunday. Rogers would not speculate about what might have caused the accident. In general, though, kayaking is like driving in that you're constantly making decisions as you navigate downstream, Rogers said. "There are times when you make a bad decision and that is one of the reasons why it's important to have a group of people to paddle with, to kind of look out for each other," said Rogers, who's been kayaking since 1980. "Now, plenty of people paddle two at a time. That's not the safest number. It's better if you have three people and preferably four to five people. So there is safety in numbers." There are stretches of the Need Camp Run that would be designated Class 4 rapids this time of year, Rogers said. The water temperature Sunday was about 50 degrees. "It is a sad day, that is for sure, when that happens to somebody," Rogers said. "But a lot of us take the attitude that is dangerous driving to and from the rivers, too." Arno was wearing a life vest, but Dean did not know whether she still had it on when rescuers found her this morning.

© 2012 Redding, CA Record Searchlight. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

As many of you know, I was boating with Shelbi Arno on Clear Creek last December when she died.  I've written up an account of what happened below, with a photo of the rapid.

Shelbi Arno and I ran the Clear Creek river from Whiskeytown Reservoir NEED camp bridge on Sunday, December 9, 2012.  This section is about 8 miles, and CA Creeks rates it as class IV with one class V- rapid at nominal flows (http://cacreeks.com/clear-wh.htm).  The weather was warm and clear; it had recently rained, and the flow was about 260 cfs, mostly from dam release; it picked up a little from side creeks during the run, but not much.
 
Shelbi had run this river once before; I had not.  She expressed confidence in her ability -- said that her previous run with a group had been very smooth, that the rapids seemed easier than their ratings.  We were a group of two boaters; we had expected another boater, but that was our misunderstanding of email communications.
 
We started at around 11:30 am, with plenty of time to do the 8 mile run.  Most of the run is fairly flat, punctuated by five significant rapids, all of them scoutable and portageable.
 
About the middle of the run is Ski Jump rapid, the class V-.  We pulled out just above on river left, and scouted on the rocks about midway down.  Shelbi remembered the run as river right: boofing the ski jump rock, then staying right and picking one of the right chutes at the bottom of the rapid.  She said she would take this line,  and decided to run first, while I stayed on the rocks for perimeter safety near the obvious broach rocks on river left.
 
Shelbi boofed the ski jump rock without a problem, then went down a small constriction slide on the right into the second flat section of the rapid.  Just after, she turned over, for no obvious reason.  She rolled up quickly, but she was almost at the large center-right rock at the bottom of the rapid.  She washed sideways and upright into this rock, facing river right; the flow there wasn't that strong, and she was able to move towards river right across the rock.
 
Just as her boat was moving off the rock, she flipped again, upstream. As her boat moved upside-down towards the far right channel, I didn't see her paddle or any attempt at a setup or roll.  The boat floated bow-first and upside-down into the far-right channel, which is one of the normal routes.  It went over the drop bow-first, and immediately stuck in a vertical pin, with the top deck of the boat against the far rock forming the chute.  I could see only the bottom of the boat,about 1/3 out of the water, but no sign of Shelbi or her paddle.
 
By moving along the left bank, jumping into and crossing the river below the rapid to reach the right side, I was able to access the boat from the chute rock.  Reaching far down, I could feel Shelbi's arm but not see her; she was pinned solidly between the front deck of her boat and the chute rock.  To free her, I would have to free the whole boat from the pin.  After some time, I was able to free the boat, which plunged the rest of the way down the drop.  When I looked over the rock, Shelbi was out of the boat, floating face down, with the boat behind her.
 
Below the rapid is a short flat section with current, followed by another class IV drop that has entrapment potential on the left side. Shelbi and the boat were in a current from the drop of the pin that moved them quickly towards this side, and into the next drop.  I went along the right-hand bank to where I could see the end of the next drop, and did a quick scan.  I saw the boat circulating in an eddy against the cliff on river left, but no sign of Shelbi.  The left side of the river was inaccessible from the left bank, with a large overhanging cliff.  I waited some time to see if Shelbi would emerge, then moved down the right bank to see if there was anything further downstream.  I saw nothing, and came back and scanned again for awhile.  Finally, I climbed and swam downstream until I could get out on the left side, climbed a steep slope to a house by the road, and summoned help.
 
When the rescue team arrived, we went down the slope near the top of the cliff above the lower rapid on river left, but weren't able to descend further without more technical equipment.  A helicopter was also present, searching the river.  Shelbi's boat stayed in the eddy on river left.  We could not spot any definitive sign of Shelbi, although we might have seen a faint glimmer of an orange patch somewhere in the left side of the drop.  At that point, the sun was going down, and the search was called off until the next day.  A full search-and-rescue team came in the morning and did discover and dislodge her body; I was not present, but have heard second-hand that it was in that drop.
 

Kurt Konolige