Accident Database

Report ID# 3696

  • Swim into Rock or Sieve
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

Yesterday in California Dirk Bradford died on Upper Indian Creek, a tributary of the East Branch of the North Fork Feather.

From Charlie Albright in Reno:

An aquaitance of mine, Dirk Bradford, drowned this past weekend on the "Cascades" section of Indian Creek.  Indian Creek and Spanish Creek join a short distance later to form the East Branch of the North Fork of the Feather River just north of Quincy, California.  From what I heard at roll session tonight I guess the accident happened after they had just negotiated a "falls" and Dirk for some reason flipped in a "class 2" section of water.  He tried 4 rolls and swam into a "sieve."  I have talked to him several times in the last few years and he was a very competent class 5 paddler who was said had not swam in 10 years. 

The Cascades of Indian Creek is about a two mile section of class 4-5 water that has been run often in past years.  I have done it twice.  It is marked by lots of drops through boulders with many choices to make as to which slot to choose in some very steep gradient.  There are many sieves and pin potentials.  Flow on Saturday was about 900cfs.  Dirk was with two fellow class 5 paddlers Roger and Cyrus from Reno.  Dirk had recently started paddling again after having knee surgery for a snowboarding injury.


Dirk was the best person I knew. I still can't figure out why Dirk swam out of his boat - he was the first to champion the rule of 'never swim'. An inspection of his boat showed that his boat did not fail him. Instead of trying to swim toward the side of the river, he swam towards boulders in the center of the river. Instead of climbing up on the boulders, Dirk got swept under; and we couldn't get to him. Upper Indian creek is infamously unforgivable, and it did not forgive this mistake. If there is anyone that needs closure, please call - at any time - seven 7 five, 2 four 0, seven nine seven eight.

Kayaker drowns north of Indian Falls

Plumas County News

A 39-year-old Reno man was killed in a kayaking accident north of Indian Falls on Saturday afternoon, March 23. According to the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office, Dirk Laurie Von-Bradford drowned after he became separated from his kayak about three quarters of a mile above the falls. He was reportedly under water in the river for about 10 minutes.

Von-Bradford was kayaking with two other people when the accident happened about 2:30 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene after his body was recovered. Plumas County Sheriffs Search and Rescue and California Highway Patrol air operations handled the recovery operation. A CHP helicopter was dispatched from Redding.

1a. Grief, beyond belief.  Please read.
    Posted by: "michael croslin" drcroslin
    Date: Thu Apr 4, 2013 7:07 pm ((PDT))

   Two weeks ago I was informed that Dirk Bradford died after getting flushed
into a sieve on Indian Creek in Northern California, a very difficult class5++
run.  Many know this name in the rescue community since Dirk volunteered his
considerable experience swim testing Force6 PFDs in class5 rapids and bravely
testing applications of the Reach systems in extreme conditions...he was a huge
presence in the kayaking community, a very skilled boater and a dear
brother...his loss as big as Segerstroms to me personally.  Much of my life
centered around nearly daily calls from Dirk encouraging, educating and
cajolling me to hike and scout runs for him from my position in the
Sierra...knowing him very well, and interviewing Cyrus Luciano...who spent the
previous weekend with me scouting water in the central Sierra for rescue class
in May.  Dirk usually boats year around, but a knee injury from a fall at work,
and a MCL repair less than eight weeks old and
perhaps a too aggressive expectation of full recovery...put him back in his
boat running class5 too soon in my doctor view.  Dirk chose Upper Indian Creek,
Middle Feather as his return test run...some know as Casacadia...Hans Holbeck
describes this run as ":the most terrifyingly runnable whitewater imaginable": 
This was Dirk, both Cyrus and Roger would follow him most anywhere.  As they
prepped at the put in, all three put on their Reach systems...the system that
Dirk helped design...Roger and Dirk had experience boating with the system,
Cyrus was learning..but had never boated with the system...Dirk had agreed to
slow down a bit and go over how he uses it...Another kayak team agreed to put on
with them, and was anxious to get on...Dirk hyped up, decided to drop the system
at the last minute, not taking the time to train and prep..but to join the bomb
flow...turns out the other kayakers flaked anyway and did not wait or team
and doubt Dirk rushed and compromised his own team as much to
help them as his own crew...its his inborn nature.., They put in and made it
down the first mile, no problem...the flow was around 900cfs, after a long falls
they all were regrouped  in a microeddy, Dirk was fiddling with his PFD, one
hand off his paddle, a wave hit him and knocked him over, he rolled once
sucessfully, then went over again , two unsuccessful roll attempts...Cyrus
expecting him to be fine...reasonable knowing Dirk...instead he punches and
swims...still slightly above Cyrus...Dirk turns and catches his boat facing two
horizon lines left and right but decides to swim for a rock midchannel...Cyrus
reports wishing he still had his system on for a instant  rope toss, too little
time to pull a bag from inside his boat...Dirk swims for the rock but gets
pulled into a sieve just before reaching it. 

Ten minutes of the usual time chaos Cyrus is able to blindly toss a Reach down the sieve...frantic and terrified he turns just for a moment to see Dirk flush headed facedown downstream...unable to keep pace on shore, he heads  back and tries to catch up in his boat.  Dirk finally comes to rest at a severe split in the channel next to a large drop.  CHP was called to do a short haul
with the help of Cyrus and Roger who ferried out to the spot to assist.  These  are the main interest of learning and growth
my view here is simply  to slow down the push for quick return to the joy of whitewater when rehabing from injury, and never compromise your safety setup and preparation for the questionable security of combining boating teams...this one hurts me
personally...big time. 


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