Accident Database

Report ID# 38

  • Caught in a Natural Hydraulic
  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply

Accident Description

The Chilliwack Canyon is a Class IV run near Vancouver, British Columbia. On July 13, 1986 Mel Zajak, a solid intermediate with a strong roll, was running the river with three friends. There is a long rapid just above the cable-pool gauge, and the group eddied out here on the left as usual. Below this eddy is a dangerous hole that extends out 20-30 yards from the left shore. Mel was the last to leave the eddy, and he did not swing out far enough and dropped into the hole. He bailed out after being badly thrashed, recirculated seberal times, and floated out unconscious. One of the group saw what was happening and actually paddled most of the rapid close to Mel, but he could do nothing to help him in the turbulent water.

In the pool at the base of the rapid several kayakers tried to pull him on their deck and give him mouth to mouth until they were pulled into the next rapid. Then a raft arrived, pulled him on board, then paddled him ashore. They started CPR and continued it for over two hours until paramedics arrived with a defibrilator. When this did not help him, he was prnounced dead.

Source: Pam Miller withers and MarkCamenzind

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