Accident Database

Report ID# 40

  • Pinned in Boat Against Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • Other

Accident Description

The Mulberry Fork of the Worrior River in Alabama is a straightforward Class III run - a good choice for a cold day. Water levels were high, and air temperature was in the low forties with a light rain. At the second rapid on the river  the group stopped to play the waves. Seventy feet downstream of the wave  is a tree stump all but hidden under the silty brown water. The gfroup was aware the stump was there,, and kept their eyes open for it. But when they peeled out to head downstream Glenn Clark, the last paddler to leave the eddy, hung up and pinned on the stump. It was about 11:15 am.

The boat was pinned at 90 degrees to the current with the bow pointed towards river right. His cockpit was facing downstream, and it was all he could do to keep his head above water.  Several members of his group waded out to support him, but the water was chest deep and it was difficult to stand there. They tried to lift and pivot the boat off by having one person hold onto the stern, but it would not come free. They tried  to reach him with a rope, but the distances were too great. 

Other paddlers arrived at the scene and an open boater ferried a line out to  the  pinned boat. By then this time water had risen, and  the grab looks were no longer accessible. By this time Mr. Clark had lost consciousness, and after the water had washed those who were supporting him out of the eddy. His head went under water at about 12:30. A number of other scenarios, including a telfer lower, were tried without success. Eventually the rising water caused the ends of the boat to bounce clear of the water.  A tandem open boat paddled out and after several tries theey were able to clip into the grab loop. With ten or twelve people hauling on the line the Glen's kayak finally came off at 1:55 pm.  CPR was started and continued for a short while until the county coronor pronounced Mr. Clark dead.

Source: A report prepared by members of Mr. Clark's party


This was a difficult and unusual pinning which dis not respond to the usual strategies. Mr. Clark's kayak was "hung" on the top of the stump by the cockpit rim, which passed across his lap and made escape impossible. His friends were tough and persistent, but  could not develop a good strategy. In the warmth and comfort of my living room I have these suggestions:

After the efforts of swimmers failed, a rope rescue was the only alternative. That procedure was delayed because the ropes on hand were too short. But these ropes could have been joined to get sufficient distance to reach the grab loop before Mr. Clark lost consciousness, and once attached, would almost certainly have pulled him free. Those supprting Mr. Clark could have hooked a carabiner attached to a sling over the cockpit rim. This would have given rescuers something to hold onto and made their job easier. Modern kayaks  have "broach loops" mounted near the cockpit that offer a good opportunity to do this.

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