Accident Database

Report ID# 3936

  • Swim into Rock or Sieve
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

Published on Apr 17, 2015

South Sauty Entrapment This video is from South Sauty Creek on Sand Mountain in Alabama on Friday April 10, 2015. Level was approximately 9.0 feet on the Sauty gauge and dropping. We are from out of state but I think this was about 12” to 15” on the Bucks Pocket Gauge. This entrapment was on river right at Cliff Left Rapid. There is a large sieved out boulder that has wood under it, and as you can see wood sticking out. We knew too avoid the right side here, but only one paddler had been on the creek before, and I do not think the remainder of the group appreciated the magnitude of the hazard.

Victim – Joe Bruno, Hands on Rescuer – Joe Goodwin, on rock by green open boat – Brad Goodwin, On top of Sieve Rock Chris Handley – Red PFD and White Helmet and Zach Moore – Orange Full face. There is a lot here to critique and a lot that could have gone a lot better. That being said victim was rescued, without injury, and all gear was recovered, excepting one shoe. Victim paddled out, and paddled two more days on Upper Two and Tellico.

I will offer several critiques from the group itself:

1. We should have land scouted instead of boat scouting, and should have run the left line. This would have taken the sieve/wood combo completely out of play.

2. Boater spacing was not as good as it should have been, this was a second contributing factor to the incident.

3. Although reaction time was sufficient for this situation, it would not have been sufficient for a heads down situation. It takes 6 minutes to get “hands on.”

4. It was not obvious until late in the rescue that it was an easy wade to get from where I (open boater) broached and got out on the rock to where the victim (Joe Bruno) was entrapped. A quick wade could have gotten me to the victim very quickly, particularly if I had abandoned my boat, which I would have done in a heads down situation.

5. Also it was a very easy wade around the back side of the boulder to get on the island where we ultimately set up the z drag. This was also not discovered until late in the rescue.

6. We could have possibly set up a z drag on the boat with the victim in it, and extracted both at one time. This would have been more effective than pulling from above with the rope and behind by hand, which you see in the video. We maybe could have pulled both victim and boat out by manpower alone if we could have gotten the two big guys behind the victim via wade.

7. Once we got the victim out of the entrapment and up onto the log, we spent a very long time messing with the boat before we went back to the victim. The video ends before this happens. We should have probably focused on the victim until he was safe on the lower island prior to even thinking about boat extraction. However, at the time, the victim did not want to get off the log and back into the water for quite some time. We eventually did a line assisted wade to get him down to the lower island and that worked well. The video ends before the rescue is complete, but a z drag was used to extract the boat. Two men could not pull it direct, or vector pull it. It was an easy pull with the Z drag. There is a second video from rescuer perspective. (Zach Moore) Zach was one of the guys with me (Chris Handley) up on top of the big rock. Zach’s hulk like strength was critical in getting enough manpower on the rope to pull the victim free of the boat. We hope to post that video, and possibly edit to get in time synchronized so that you can see both perspectives side by side.

So like I said, there is a lot to critique, but at the end of the day the victim was rescued, and all vital gear was recovered. Good preparedness, training, teamwork, cool heads, and having the necessary equipment were all key in making this go as well as it did. The victim wearing a rescue pfd was essential to getting the victim unentrapped.

A couple of other ideas, that fortunately did not materialize during the rescue were to have a kayaker try to get over in my open boat, (I had the paddle on my side) and lowering someone off of the rock down to the victim. We tried to lower a rope straight down to the victim at about the 5 minute mark, but he could not let go of the log to grab hold.

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