Accident Database

Report ID# 3844

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Accident Description

Kayaker presumed missing in Potomac River was actually safe at home in Reston


A kayaker presumed to be lost in the Potomac River turned up alive and well Sunday, unaware that rescue workers had deployed boats, a helicopter, and thermal imaging technology in a three-day effort to find him. The man whose kayak and paddle were found in the river bailed out, swam to shore and returned home to Reston, Montgomery County fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said on Sunday. The kayaker had no idea that rescue workers were looking for him.

Emergency responders from Montgomery and Fairfax counties, as well as the U.S. Park Police, had joined the search. Piringer estimated that 40 to 50 emergency responders participated in the search on Friday, and about a dozen searched on Saturday and again on Sunday before they received word that police had contacted the kayaker. Piringer said that Montgomery County police had been showing the gear recovered from the river to local kayakers and posting signs in the hopes that someone would provide information about the missing man. Such a tip, Piringer said, likely led the police to find him. “You’ve got to give the local kayakers credit,” Piringer said. “They always help whenever our teams hit the water. Those kayakers are out there, and they usually assist.”

Empty Kayak Found on Potomac; Police Seek Help in Locating Owner

Published on June 14, 2014 by mcpnews

Search Managers with the Montgomery County Police Department are requesting the public’s assistance in identifying the owner of a kayak found on the Potomac River south of Great Falls on Friday, June 13. At approximately 1:45 p.m., witnesses in the area of the Observation Deck at Great Falls near the Virginia shore reported seeing a white male in a red kayak with a white paddle. It appeared that he may have needed assistance. He was wearing a red or dark colored helmet and a tan flotation vest. Some time later, a kayaker down river located a red kayak and white paddle. The kayak was floating upside down near the Anglers Inn boat ramp. The kayak is a red Kendo Kayak. The paddle is aluminum and white with the letters PRP/IWL stenciled on one end. Police are attempting to determine if the operator of this kayak is missing or simply lost the kayak on the river.

Anyone who may have been in the area of the Observation Deck on the afternoon of Friday, June 13 between 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and saw a kayaker in the water is asked to contact police. If anyone recognizes this kayak or knows the whereabouts of the owner, they are asked to contact the Montgomery County Police at 301.279.8000

The Potomac is running high after multiple days of multiple rain events upstream, i.e. average for mid-June is about 5000-6000 CFS at Little Falls and it's 35,000 this morning, down from a crest of about 47,000 yesterday. So searching will be difficult and dangerous for anybody on the water.

The "PRP" and phone number on the paddle are an exact match for the defunct web site, which listed 301-353-9237 as its phone number. I've dropped a note to the Cabin John, MD rescue people (figuring they're involved in this) and suggested they contact the registrant for that site, who might be able to ID the paddle or boat. ---rsk


June 14

Rescue teams spent a second day Saturday looking for an unidentified kayaker presumed lost on the Potomac River, plying the rapids swollen from heavy rainstorms with swift boats, searching an eight-mile stretch below Great Falls by helicopter, and using thermal imaging along the banks and footpaths for any sign of a man seen on video struggling in the rough water Friday afternoon. Meanwhile, two kayakers were rescued from the Patuxent River in Prince George’s County on Saturday evening after one fell out of her kayak. Rescuers used cellphone data to help find them, said Marc S. Bashoor, the county fire chief.

In Montgomery County, police spent the day interviewing hikers and kayakers and looking for cars that might have been left in parking lots along the Potomac shore overnight. Police released photographs of a red kayak that was recovered downstream shortly after a witness on the Observation Deck at Great Falls shot the video and called 911. They alsoreleased photos of a white aluminum paddle and a Spiderman-themed gear bag that were recovered. The equipment, seasoned kayakers say, is outdated, inappropriate for such treacherous high-water levels and lacking standard safety features. After several fruitless hours of searching and fighting rising water, turbulent currents and floating debris, the rescue teams called off the search Saturday afternoon. They will resume Sunday, said Pete Piringer, spokesman for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.

“We did an extensive search, and we didn’t turn up anything,” Piringer said. “Typically, the people that boat in this area are expert boaters, Olympic-level people, so it’s not unusual to see people out here every day of the year. But these river conditions are dangerous, even for the expert boaters.”

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