Accident Database

Report ID# 3827

  • Swim into Strainer
  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

The two paddlers did not know that the strainer was in that channel. By the time they did the water took them to the downed tree in front of the strainer, turned the kayak sideways and swept the boat into the tree ball. They paddled tried to lean away from the protruding roots of the tree ball (into the oncoming current) the water flipped over the kayak, throwing the daughter from the bow into the water. She was washed downstream and when she looked up could not see or find the kayak or her mom.

Mom, kayak, life vests and a cooler were all pulled under the root ball, in a 15-foot deep hole that had been scoured by the current, and held against the root ball until several hours later when firefighters pulled the boat and body out.

Jim Pfiffer, director, Friends of the Chemung River Watershed

111 N. Main St. Elmira, N.Y. 14901

Corning woman killed in kayak accident

By Jillian Marshall & Nicky Hickling

May 11, 2014

Big Flats, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The Chemung County Sheriff’s Office identified the victim of a kayak accident Monday as Donna Bailey, 58. According to the sheriff's office, rescuers recovered her body from the river just after 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Investigators said Bailey, along with her 32-year-old daughter, entered the Chemung River at Bottcher’s Landing in the Town of Big Flats at about 2:00 p.m. Both women were in a two-person kayak.

As they came around a river bend approximately one mile east of Minier’s Fields, the kayak went to the left of an island in the middle of the river. In that area, there was a full-size, downed tree on the water. There was also a limb that was partially sticking up from the water. The sheriff’s office said the kayak struck the partially emerged limb causing the vessel to overturn. The two women became pinned against the uprooted tree. Bailey’s daughter was able to get out of the water and walk through a field to Route 352, where a motorcyclist passing by stopped to help. Boat rescue crews were called to search for Bailey at 3:51 p.m.

The operation involved seven companies which launched eight boats in an effort to locate Bailey. Just before 7:00 p.m., rescue crews found the site of the accident. It took 45 minutes for crews to recover Donna Bailey’s body due to a strong current and the location of the incident. Bailey was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators said neither woman was wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident. The Chemung County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the following fire departments: Golden Glow, West Elmira, Big Flats, South Corning, Southport, Wellsburg, Pine City and Chemung, as well as the Elmira Fire Department. Members of the New York State Police and West Elmira Police Department also assisted in the search .

Downed tree limb led to drowning

Victim was co-owner of Diamond Gym

May 24, 2012: Elmira, NY Star Gazette

This is the spot on the Chemung River in Big Flats where a canoe hit a tree limb Sunday and got wedged in the root ball of a fallen tree. One of the kayakers died in the mishap.

A Corning woman who was kayaking with her daughter was identified Monday as the person who drowned Sunday in a Mother’s Day boating accident on the Chemung River in the Town of Big Flats.

The victim was identified as Donna P. Bailey, 58, of Corning. Bailey’s body was recovered from the river around 7:35 p.m. Sunday by rescue personnel.

Bailey was part owner of Diamond Gym fitness center on Philo Road in Horseheads with her husband, Doug, the fitness center confirmed.

The Lynch Funeral Home, 318 W. Broad St., Horseheads, will hold calling hours for Bailey from 4-7 p.m. Thursday. Private funeral services will be held at the convenience of the family.

Bailey and her 32-year-old daughter, whose name was not released, had entered the river around 2 p.m. at Bottcher’s Landing in Big Flats, according to the sheriff’s office. The women were in a two-person Folbot kayak that was owned by Bailey.

The kayak encountered a downed tree as they came around a bend in the river a mile east of Minier’s Fields, the release said.

Investigators believe the kayak struck a partially submerged limb and overturned, pinning the two women in the craft against the uprooted tree.

Neither woman was wearing a life jacket, according to Undersheriff William Schrom.

“They had life jackets in the boat, but they were recovered at the scene. It’s one of those things, you want to encourage people to wear them, especially this time of year,” Schrom said. “It’s colder water, fairly high, and very fast moving in the area in which she was located. It’s a very sad, horrible tragedy.”

The two women didn’t have a destination in mind, but were going to leave the river at some point downstream and call someone to pick them up, Schrom said.

After the accident, the daughter was able to free herself and swim to shore, but she was unable to assist her mother, who was pinned under the water between the kayak and the tree, the sheriff’s office said.

The daughter made it out to state Route 352, where a passing motorcyclist stopped to help her and called 911 at 3:51 p.m. She was treated at Arnot Ogden Medical Center for minor injuries and released, Schrom said.


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