Accident Database

Report ID# 3698

  • Flush Drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

Two men in a canoe entered the river via the old Patowmac Canal cut on the Virginia side of the river in Mather Gorge. They were in their early 20's; although they were carrying 2 floatation devices neither man was wearing a PFD. One man was wearing only shorts and the other victim wore a cotton tee shirt and light weight long pants. They had wet suits in their car but decided not to wear them.  The water temp was 49 degrees and the air temp was in the low 50's. 

Their canoe hit the wave at Center Chute and capsized. The two men surfaced nearby and held on to their canoe. Fortunately six kayakers from the Greater Baltimore Canoe and Kayak Club were nearby and gave chase. Initially they encouraged the men to get out of the water onto the canoe as much as they could, but pushing the canoe out of the main flow was very slow going. Our group decided that two men would be pulled ashore by individual kayaks while the four other kayaks pushed the canoe ashore. 

Both men were both extremely cold. It's hard to tell how long they were in the water but I guess it was close to 10 minutes. Our leader told them how close they had come to dying in the swift, icy Potomac. Afterwards, they decided not to paddle downstream to Carderock as planned. We escorted them to Angler's Inn and they got off the river safely. 

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