Accident Database

Report ID# 3914

  • Other
  • Hypothermia
  • Cold Water
  • High Water

Accident Description




(Sandy Hook, Maryland) A kayaker submerged waist deep in the frigid Potomac River in Washington County today was hoisted to safety by a Maryland State Police helicopter crew who then flew him to a hospital for treatment of possible hypothermia. Shortly before 2:00 p.m. today, fire and rescue units from both Frederick and Washington counties were dispatched to the Potomac River, just west of the US Rt. 340 bridge in Sandy Hook, Md., for a kayaker who was stranded in the river. Maryland State Police helicopter, Trooper 3, based in Frederick, was also dispatched for a possible hoist rescue. Rescue personnel spotted the stranded kayaker submerged to his waist and clinging to a rock to avoid being swept downstream in the swift moving water. The 54-year-old male victim was about 75 yards off the Maryland shore.

Due to the 35 degree water and 25 degree air temperatures, fire department rescuers on the ground coordinated with the crew of Trooper 3 to hoist the victim from overhead to safety as quickly as possible. The crew of Trooper 3, using the AgustaWestland AW-139 helicopter, lowered a rescue basket down to the stranded kayaker. The victim was able to climb into the rescue basket and was hoisted into the aircraft. The victim was then immediately flown to Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown, for further evaluation and treatment of suspected hypothermia.

The Maryland State Police Aviation Command has served Maryland citizens since 1970, and operates a fleet of ten helicopters from seven bases throughout Maryland on a 24/7/365 basis. Missions include medevac, law enforcement, search & rescue, homeland security, and disaster assessment. The success of rescues performed by the Aviation Command depends a great deal on the cooperative effort of local fire, rescue, EMS, and law enforcement agencies.

CONTACT: Sgt. Mike Perkins - Maryland State Police Aviation Command Frederick Section - (301) 663-5742 Contact: Greg Shipley Office of Media Communications & Marketing 410-653-4236 (Office) 410-653-4200 (through Headquarters Duty Officer

There's a local news article which includes the detail that the paddler was wearing a wetsuit, but I haven't found anything which explains what he was doing out there, whether he was alone, what happened to his boat, etc. This location is about half a mile downstream from the confluence of the Potomac and the Shenandoah at Harper's Ferry -- and six months from now, on a summer Saturday afternoon, it will be almost possible to walk from bank to bank on the canoes, kayaks, rafts and tubes out there. Not so much in January. I checked the gauge: it was about 4 ft at Harper's Ferry, or around 6000 CFS, which is a fairly typical winter level. The description of the location suggests that maybe he was stranded on the large rocks at river right of White Horse. It's the largest feature there and while it's a straightforward drop through a fairly clean channel, it features converging waves that tend to swamp open canoes and recreational kayaks at 4000 CFS and up. ---rsk

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