Accident Database

Report ID# 4031

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

Accident Description

This was a head injury. Clint taught for Neal Schroeter at Whitecap so he knew his stuff and had the right gear. I get concerned out here that people don't wear helmets , but this was not the case here.

Apr 17, 2016

IRONWOOD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) A Hurley, Wisconsin man died Saturday as a result of a head injury while kayaking down the Black River. 49-year- old, Clint Mabie, was kayaking down the river in Ironwood Township near Narrows Creek with a group around 2:30 pm. Officers from Gogebic County Sheriff's Department and Michigan State Police- Wakefield Post responded to the scene with paramedics from Beacon Ambulance Service. Officers and paramedics were assisted by Gogebic County Search and Rescue.


Incident Report - Death of Clint Mabie


Around noon a group of 10 kayakers set out to do the mainly class II section of the Black River north of Bessemer, MI. The group put in at a section starting at a place called the Narrows. They were to take out just below Copper Peak. It was a very pleasant day. The river was running somewhat high at around 1500 cfs. This has been a very manageable stretch at this level & higher. There is a half mile of class I ripples before about a quarter mile of class II rapids with 3 small straight forward drops. There are then 2-3 miles of less than class I current before a class II-III multistage drop close to the take out. It was spring, the water was cool, but had warmed some since it was now fed from rain rather than just snow melt. The group was dressed for emersion despite the warm ambient temperature.

This group. lead by Clint Maybe and myself,  paddled together frequently as part of a youth mentoring club & as a small business that guides sea kayak trips & does whitewater instructions. It was led by an L4 ACA whitewater instructor & co-lead by the victim who was a L4 Coastal Kayak instructor, who was an experienced, & accomplished whitewater paddler & instructor. Both were very familiar with the river. The group otherwise consisted of 4 teenagers who are capable paddlers who had paddled the section once before & 4 other adults. One of who is an L3 Coastal Kayak instructor. One adult was new to the group & her skills were unknown. Another adult was known to be the least experienced & less capable, but had paddled with the group for 4 months the previous season. This was to be the first whitewater outing of the season for some in the group. All had good rolls other than the two less experienced adults. Most had experience instructing or helping to instruct others in whitewater.

The plan was for the lead paddler to demonstrate the best line followed by some of the teenagers. The less experienced adults were to follow with the victim offering support close at hand to the less experienced. The most capable teen was to do sweep.

Through the first drop, the inexperienced adult tipped on a wave & swam. The victim was following close behind & rescued the swimmer, while the lead paddler went to rescue the kayak, which was eventually recovered soon after the end of the quarter mile of class II rapids. The victim assisted the swimmer to the shoreline. He asked the swimmer if he was okay, & instructed him to proceed down the bank of the river to his boat. The victim also assured the swimmer he was okay & was last seen beginning to ferry toward the center of the river.

The remaining 4 kayakers who paused when they saw the swim followed down the remaining section of rapids, probably not more than a minute or two after the rescue. As they followed the rapids through the last drop, they noticed Mr. Maybe's lifeless body stuck in a hole to the side of the last drop. This was about a 3 foot drop with a straight chute in the middle. Left of center, there is a shallow pour over with a potentially retentive hole at this water level. The paddlers tried approaching the hole, but within another minute or two the body flushed from the hole. The youngest paddler was able to paddle up to the body. He was not breathing & his helmet was off.

Meanwhile, the lead paddler had exited his kayak to push the rescued kayak up on shore. He noticed the victims kayak float by, & soon heard calls for help. The young paddler was holding on to the body but couldn’t paddle him to shore. The leader swam out to him. He wasn’t responsive, wasn’t breathing & had poor color. With help by another adult paddler who was still in his kayak & a short tow, the body was brought to shore, though only after considerable effort after about another quarter mile in the strong current. He was pulled up on shore & together effective CPR was performed, but was ineffective in reviving the victim.

He was noticed to have a contusion over his right forehead.

What is known about the mechanism of his death is, there was a very short time between when he was known to be well & when he was seen limp & out of his kayak. It is known also that he suffered a head injury.

It is postulated that after the rescue of the swimmer Clint must have mistakenly slipped over the shallow pour over. It’s possible that he rolled up-river & struck his head, either resulting in a fatal blow or causing unconsciousness which led to drowning. It’s unknown if he rolled & had his helmet sucked off by the current, then rolled again suffering the head injury, or if he stuck his head hard enough even with the helmet on in an initial roll enough to lose consciousness & then have his helmet sucked off subsequently.

His helmet was found a week later in branches down river. It was thought not to show any signs of new damage.

Neal Schroeter

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