BIZARRE TRAGEDY ON THE COSSATOT RIVER
"Falls" section near Umpire, Arkansas: July 8, 1995
Gradient 80 ft/mi; Volume 50-100 cfs; Class (1000 cfs) IV+
DESCRIPTION: According to witnesses James Brawley, Michael Ash, and their sons were floating the Cossatot Falls section of the Cossatot River in small vinyl rafts. Water flows were very low, estimated at 100 cfs. At 1000 cfs the rapids, the hardest run in Arkansas, compare favorably to section IV of the Chatooga. The raft overturned in the third drop, BMF. Both boys, who were wearing PFD's, made it safely to shore. Brawley, 38, swam for their cooler and was swept into the fourth drop, Washing Machine, where he caught his foot, was swept underwater, and drowned. Robert Ash, 39, made an attempt to rescue Brawley, then returned to the bank where he dropped dead from a heart attack! Neither adult was wearing a PFD.
SOURCES: Ted Smethers and Walter Felton, Arkansas Canoe Club; Butch Morris, Howard County Sheriff's Deputy
ANALYSIS: Although this accident was unusual, it illustrates the dangers involved with recovering equipment at the risk of your life and serves as a warning to all of us.