Accident Database

Report ID# 3973

  • Health Problem
  • Heart Attack / Heart Failure
  • Other

Accident Description

My recollection of events: I arrived at Greenbrier around 5:30 to see if anyone was there doing a late lap. I didn’t see anyone at the take-out, so I drove out to the park boundary and sat waiting for anyone to show up. I saw David Mc pull in a few minutes before 6, so I followed him in to the third pull-out (above wedding beach). We chatted, then headed back to the take out parking lot. As I passed the last rapid right before turning into the lot I saw Carter floating. He seemed to be holding on to Greg Murphy's boat. I thought he was simply swimming him to shore, but soon saw that was not the case.

His crew (Greg Murphy and Vince Davis), and another man (Barrett) who had swam across quickly started CPR on river right. I called 911, and within a minute Chuck Hester (the Greenbrier Ranger) showed up. I had already put on my gear, and as soon as Dave Mc got across the river I threw them a rope. At this point they had been performing CPR for about 7-8 minutes or so.

They got him back in a PFD, clipped in to the rope then Chuck and I pulled them across. Chuck and myself pulled him ashore and within a few seconds I started chest compressions while Chuck manned the Ambu bag. We felt gurgles here and there. This went on for a few minutes till another ranger showed up (Steve Kloster). Steve took over compressions from me.

Within another couple minutes Gatlinburg EMS arrived and started an AED, then loaded Carter into the Greg and Vince stated that at one point he was semi-conscious and said something about "floating", but quickly went back out. They could feel him breathing somewhat off and on when they were still on river right, and I noticed him moving his lips even from the other side of the river. Luckily we were in the flatwater below the take out rapid, which made evac easy and efficient.

His partners had stated they were on their second lap of the day, that Carter had been having a good day full of smooth clean lines. He had seemed a bit tired during the second lap, and seemed especially sluggish as he dumped his boat between Wedding Beach and Take Out rapids.

Carter has a pump installed in his boat, but apparently did not have a charged battery today. His crew stated that he was entering Take Out rapid and simply turned over. He was not underwater for a great deal of time. His crew acted fast to get him to shore, as did Dave Mc, and Barrett. All NPS/EMS staff were on the spot with follow-up care and evac. Within half an hour of the ambulance leaving we got word back that Carter did not have a pulse when he was placed into the Ambulance. Preliminary exams showed no water in his lungs, and ER docs stated it was likely a heart attack or Embolism that caused him to collapse.

Please get training in swiftwater rescue and CPR. Consider taking a WFR course if it is within your budget, especially if you paddle in the wilderness.

07.02.15 Greenbrier

Greg Murphy and I were boating with Carter Worthington on the Greenbrier. I typed this up after getting to my hotel room the other night.  I may be off in the timing and sequence of events, but after thinking about it, this is pretty much what I recall.

Carter had paddle well on the first lap of Greenbrier.  The first lap was a group of eight and went a little slow. Carter, Greg Murphy and I made another lap, Carter and Greg in open boats, and I was in a Kayak. The water was higher on the second lap which made for better paddling.  Level at 1.9 at the bridge.  We had all stated what a great level we had on this second lap.  Carter paddled very well on his lap.  I have not paddled with him since Oct/Nov last year, but he was paddling the best I had seen him paddle.  I had thought he had stepped up his game.  We were having an awesome lap down the Greenbrier.

I went first through the last rapid, then Greg, and then Carter, each on a different line.  Carter came off the last ledge at an angle going over in his boat.  From a downstream point of view, it looked like he tried to roll; however, video shown that he had come down trying to low brace, and then came on out of his canoe.

I paddled to be across stream to help pull either Carter or his boat in.  He had hold of both his boat and paddle. Holding on the edge of the bank I helped pull / spin him and his boat to the bank.

He stood in the water and dumped the water in his boat towards the bank.  He said “I’m worn out” as he dumped his boat and then lay over his boat while dumping, more of a slump.  After 10 to 15 seconds lying over his boat, he fell towards his back into the water, away from his canoe.  I thought he was trying to cool off.  He rolled face down.  At a half boat length away, I moved to pull him face up.  As Greg pulled in, we rolled him face up and he jerked up, breathing, looking around.  Greg asked him if he knew where he was.  I could not here him, but his head was looking around.  Greg said after asking him, Carter said “floating”.

I’m not sure of my timeline here, but these are events related to the event.

While we were holding him, his head then went back with face up away from the water, and he pulled his arms in.  My thought was he was having a seizure.  Thinking about this now, with him pulling his arms down, he may have been trying to keep his PFD on since that is what we were holding. He then went limp as we pulled him over to some rocks on the river right back.

At some point, I was getting out of my boat and trying to secure Carter’s boat.  Greg was out of his boat with Carter. Carter appeared to be breathing then, eyes rolled back, but eyes still had some movement.  Greg felt and he still had a pulse.  Greg stated “turning blue”.

At some point, I breathed him with what appeared to be some response, like a 2 or 3 shallow breaths, then none. I breathed him again and had no response.  A guy on the river left back who had stopped to assist (Seth OShilds?) asked if he should call 911, we said yes. We removed his PFD started full CPR.  Initially I was breathing and Greg was performing chest compressions.  Sometime after starting full CPR, Barrett Black and another guy (Dave McConnell) helped change out on compressions and breathing.  Seth called from the back and said send him over with more people there for help.  A Park Ranger was now with Seth. 

We had a difficult time putting his PFD back on.  Seth threw a rope, Dave and I kept his head up while pulling him back over to river left (the road side).  The Ranger (Ranger Chuck Hester), Seth and I (not sure who else) lifted Carter onto the bank.  Seth and Ranger Hester restarted CPR.

Within a minute, the rescue squad arrived, and along with the help of the Park Ranger, fully took over with their equipment. Soon after, Carter was moved onto a body board, then a stretcher, then to an ambulance and off. Later, at ER, Ranger Paxton and a person from the medical team indicated Carter had passed, and his passing was due to cardiopulmonary issue or event.

Thanks to the Park Rangers there, Rangers Hester, Paxton and a third Park Ranger.  The EMS team was spot on, as well as other who stepped in to assist (Seth and Dave).  I think there was another out of uniform ranger assisting as well.

A couple of thoughts: During the event, Carter never appeared to be afraid or in any pain.  Through the CPR, there were no signs of water in his lungs; that is, fluids coming up or sounds of fluids in his lungs.

Carter will be missed by all of us.  All my prayers best thoughts to his family.

Vince Davis

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