Accident Database

Report ID# 4021

  • Impact/Trauma
  • Head Injury / Concussion
  • Cold Water
  • Solo Paddling

Accident Description

Here's the link to the Facebook video:

Raging river - Kayaker survives harrowing trip over Little Palouse Falls

Daily Sun News; Sunnyside, WA

STARBUCK — A Tri-Cities area kayaker is recovering this week after surviving a harrowing Sunday evening ride over Little Palouse Falls.James Ng, 25, of West Richland, went over the falls “upside down and backwards.” As a result, he needed multiple stitches and was evaluated for possible brain injuries. His roommate and fellow kayaker Nathan Schweiger, 24, said this morning that Ng is “doing all right.”“He got a bunch of stitches,” Schweiger said.

Ng’s injuries came on his maiden trip over the upper falls, about a half-mile upstream from the main falls.Ng and Schweiger, and a “safety crew of friends,” headed to the Palouse River for an enjoyable afternoon of kayaking in the isolated area. The two kayakers took time to survey the raging river and the upper falls. They agreed the best way over the falls was a route to the left of a rocky outcropping.Then with a quick contest of rock, paper, scissors, they were ready to take the plunge. Ng won and took to the water first.He carried his green kayak upstream about a quarter-mile and started down. Just above the falls, he pulled out of the river to get another look at the best route over the upper falls. That’s when the excitement began.

Ng entered the river and was quickly turned sideways, then backwards, as he approached the falls. I was like oh, I don’t know where the waterfall was,” he said. Paddling hard, he was unable to regain his position and plunged backwards over the falls. He overturned on his way down, striking the visor of his helmet on the rocks beneath the water. The visor shattered and the fiberglass shards slashed his forehead open. The force of the water also pushed through his skirt, filling the kayak with water.

“The river was running pretty high,” Ng said. “I tried to run left, but hit a couple holes, got hung up and went down backwards and upside down. I hit my face along the way, a handful of times.” #Ng battled to right his boat and regain control. But bloody, disoriented and sinking, he finally opted to cut loose and try to get to shore. Meanwhile, the raging torrent was pushing him ever-closer to the main falls – a 198-foot plunge. Only one kayaker, Tyler Bradt of Montana, has gone over Palouse Falls and survived, setting a world record on April 21, 2009.

#On shore, Schweiger raced down the riverbank to try to assist Ng. Their friends followed. #“I went to the waterfall was and was hoping he didn’t go over,” Schweiger said, noting he couldn’t see Ng against the cliff on the river’s edge. #“He was up against the cliff. He just sat there for a little while and got his breath,” Schweiger said. “I didn’t see him down there. I ran to the very end to try to grab him.” #Ng remembers getting free from his boat and catching an eddy that helped push him up against the cliff. There, he caught his breath and regained his orientation. #Blood pouring from his forehead, he climbed up the basalt along the river and sat down on the rocks.

As his friends evaluated his injuries and made sure he was coherent, Ng offered some words of wisdom to onlookers: “If you go down a waterfall upside down and backwards, stay tight and look for the eddy to swim to,” he said. “You don’t want to keep going down river.” #Downstream, Schweiger stood near the edge of the 198-foot falls, watching for Ng. #After a few minutes, he was told Ng was ashore. So, Schweiger took the long trek down the inside of the canyon and recovered Ng’s kayak, which had gone over the main falls.

Ng was taken to the nearest hospital — in Colfax. There, he was stitched up and underwent a CT scan to ensure he didn’t suffer any brain trauma. #Today or tomorrow, the kayakers are planning a trip back to the canyon to recover the boat.

Looking back on the experience, Ng said, “Stay safe kids.” He also noted that anyone attempting a raging falls should wear better equipment. “Waterfalls — full-face helmet,” he said. Schweiger agreed. “Get a full-face helmet and an implosion resistant skirt,” he said. “Go with people who have some experience.” #Ng and Schweiger have been kayaking just over a year.

Both said they are not about to let Sunday’s mishap deter them from future adventures. We’re going to take a couple week off,” Schweiger said. “He (Ng) has to stay out of the water at least five days because of his stitches.” Schweiger said kayakers should be prepared when taking to the river this time of year. “Sometimes things just go wrong,” he said.

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