We lost a fellow boater on the Lower Youghiogheny on Saturday, July 26, 2015. My group was paddling our kayaks about a mile below Railroad rapid on the section of flatwater there. It was probably about 1:30 and very hot. We were flagged over to river left by a man asking for assistance. He informed us that someone was having a heart attack. We jumped out of our boats and hurried into the woods. The man was on the ground with a handful of paddlers helping him. His name was Tim Meyers, he was 50, and had a previous heart attack years earlier.
I learned later that Mr. Meyers had approached a gentleman in a private raft on a river right eddy. He stated that he thought he was having a heart attack and asked if the rafter had a baby aspirin. The rafter did not but agreed to call 911 on his cellphone. He also offered to paddle Mr. Meyers to the other side, which is accessible from a hiking trail high above. Mr. Meyers declined, paddled himself, and exited his kayak on a large rock. Due to the heat, he asked to be helped into the shade. He collapsed there. The rafter did an outstanding job of getting critical information from Mr. Meyer while he was still conscious and offering other assistance.
When my group arrived, they had removed Mr. Meyers’ PFD and helmet and tried to make him comfortable. He was still breathing in gasps but was unresponsive. A member of my party knew CPR and had performed it once before. The minute Mr. Meyers stopped breathing, my friend started performing compressions and giving breaths. Park rangers arrived quickly with a defibrillator, and EMT’s were on the scene shortly after that to continue CPR and provide other treatments. I estimate these treatments continued for at least a half hour without response from Mr. Meyers.
We hauled Mr. Meyers’ boat and equipment up the steep incline. Then we rigged a rope system to assist the people carrying him on the body board to the ambulance on the trail. I was told that he was pronounced dead at that time. While the outcome was tragic, I feel inspired by the response of my fellow boaters and by the professionals on the scene. I'm convinced that Mr. Meyers could not have had better help.
I'm grateful for my swiftwater rescue training class last month. It was not only useful in the situation above, but also the day before. On Saturday I helped a group of college girls who had no business trying to raft the LoYo. We monitored their progress and, when they got stuck in the middle of Railroad, I hurried over to them and took charge of the scene. I hopped out of my boat, waded though the rapid using my paddle, got them safely out of the raft onto a rock, freed the raft, helped them back in, and climbed back in my boat without swamping it. I then convinced them to hike out. Thanks for your instruction. I didn't expect it to be so valuable so soon. I'm signing up for CPR training today. John Black Columbus Outdoor Pursuits
Tim Meyers was kayaking. The rest of his group was in a raft, he was guiding them down the LY. Our group helped him to shore.