Accident Database

Report ID# 392

  • Impact/Trauma
  • Head Injury / Concussion
  • Other

Accident Description


Near Ohiopyle, PA: August 20, 1995

Gradient - 27 fpm; Guage 3'4"(medium); Classification - III+

DESCRIPTION: The Lower Yough is the most popular dam-controlled whitewater run in the Middle Atlantic area, offering a number of Class III+ rapids. The level, though moderate, would be a handful for first timers. The victim, Douglas Sweeting, 19, and four friends rented inflatable kayaks from a local outfitter. Life vests were worn, but helmets were not used. One member took out at the bottom of Entrance Rapids, the others continued on. At River's End, Sweeting, a strong swimmer who had surfed in Hawaii, hit a boulder and fell into the river. For reasons not clear he left his boat and swam repeatedly into the hole behind Snaggletooth Rock. After five or six forays he emerged floating face down.

Sweeting weighed over 250 pounds, so getting him out of the river was difficult. The initial rescuers were not trained in CPR. Soon after a doctor and a nurse arrived at the scene, began CPR, and sent for help. They continued treatment for over an hour and a half. The victim's heart restarted several times, but could not sustain itself. Hopwood and Markleysburg ambulances arrived and relieved the rescuers. After drugs were administered Sweeting's heart could beat on its own. Carrying him up to the bike path, however, was quite difficult due to his weight and the steep terrain. He was transported by ambulance to Ohiopyle, then by helicopter to Uniontown where he was pronounced dead. The total time from the accident to arrival to the hospital was about three hours.

SOURCES: Lou Conley, Three Rivers Paddling Club; Scott McIndoe; Bob Broadbent; Connelsville Daily Courier; Uniontown Herald Standard; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Greensburg Tribune-Review; Penna. Fish Commission; Coastal CaNews; Internet postings forwarded by Slim Ray and Dan Roberts.

ADDENDUM: The first paramedic to arrive at the scene slipped and fell 50 feet down the steep embankment. Although in pain, he continued help out as much as possible. At the top of the hill, as he was saying goodby to the doctor and the nurse, he stopped breathing and went into full cardiac arrest! The two medical professionals started CPR, restored his pulse and breathing, and sent for help. A few minutes later he went into cardiac arrest for a second time! They restarted CPR and brought him back a second time. He was helicoptered to Pittsburgh Medical Center where he was found to have several broken ribs and a concussion! Fortunately he made a full recovery.

ANALYSIS: No one can explain the victim's bizarre behavior, but the coroner reported that no head injury was present. Clearly he was badly disoriented. Only a safety kayaker might have paddled to him and dissuaded him from his irrational action.

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