A detailed description of the events on Upper Cherry Creek, CA from 7/1 – 7/4
Logan Farrell, 35, passed away at approx 10:50 AM on Sunday July 3rd, 2016 in the Weir Hole at the bottom of Cherry Bomb Falls on Upper Cherry Creek.
There were six of us on the trip, Logan Farrell (Portland, OR), Chris Leach (Portland, OR), Jarred Jackman (Camas, WA), Jacob Cruser (Albany, OR), Ben Mckenzie (Eugene, OR) and I, Nate Merrill (Bend, OR). I was the only one of the group who had done the creek before, but every paddler in our group had at least 10 years of white water experience. We’ve all paddled together on countless occasions and were prepared for our trip with the proper skill set and knowledge.
We began our hike into Upper Cherry on Friday afternoon around 3 PM. Despite our best efforts, we didn’t make it all the way to the put-in before dark and ended up camping at the springs 7 miles into the hike. We caught up to a group of paddlers from the mid-atlantic region who had completed the creek just two days prior and were back for more.
The next morning, we completed the hike and began to paddle down the creek around 11 AM. Everything went smoothly on this day and we were all paddling well and working together as a team to move down river safely and efficiently. We reached the start of cherry bomb gorge around 3:30 PM and opted to unload our boats and carry our camping gear with us on the high river left scout. Upon reaching the scouting platform, we watched as our friends from the previous evening descended cherry bomb falls with great lines. As a team we decided that the gorge looked good, but that we wanted to wait to the following morning to paddle the committing section. We continued the hike down to flint stone and setup camp, leaving our boats at the start of the gorge.
The next morning (Sunday) we woke up early, ate breakfast, and began to discuss how everyone was feeling regarding cherry bomb. We began our hike back up the canyon to our boats and did a second scout of the section along the way. Upon reaching our kayaks, we all again discussed how each of us was feeling and all decided that we wanted to run the gorge. Putting on, we made short work of the lead in rapids and soon found ourselves on top of cherry bomb falls, scouting the 30 foot sliding cascade.
The 30 foot sliding falls leads directly into a sticky uniform ledge hole that paddlers often refer to as The Weir. The whole gorge is very boxed in with vertical walls stretching up hundreds of feet on either side of the river. Jacob volunteered to go first and setup safety on river right below the weir on a small shelf. From this shelf, he would be able to reach the weir hole with his throw bag if anyone were to be stuck in the hole. He quickly hopped in his boat, ran the drop with style, and got out on the right to hold a throw bag for the rest of the crew. I went next, followed by Jarred and Chris, and regrouped in the river left eddy above the next series of drops.
Logan came down 5th and had a decent line off of the falls, but tapped the nose of his boat against the river right wall above the weir. This wall tap affected his boat angle and speed dropping into the weir and he wasn’t able to clear the hole sufficiently. He began surfing the hole in his boat and almost worked his way out of the hydraulic on the river left side but was quickly pulled back into the center of the ledge. At this point, Logan began to yell “rope” and Jacob deftly tossed his throw bag upstream towards Logan, but given the chaotic nature of the hydraulic, Logan didn’t see (or wasn’t able to grab) the end of the line. Jacob recoiled the bag and repeated the toss 2 more times, once even getting the rope over the bow of Logan’s boat.
At this point, I got out of my boat on river left and was ready with a bag if he came down river. After 70-80 seconds had elapsed, Logan finally exited his boat. It’s not entirely clear what happened next, but Jacob tossed his rope twice more trying to connect with Logan out of his boat. Both throws made the distance to Logan, but weren’t grabbed. There was a short period of time during these rescue attempts where Logan was out of his boat but holding onto it. It was probably only 15 seconds from when he appeared to exit his boat before he was sighted floating down stream limp and unresponsive. We attempted to grab him and pull him into the river left eddy above the next series of drops, but couldn’t get him out of the current. He swept over the next horizon line and out of my line of sight.
At this point, Jarred and Chris took off down the gorge trying to coral Logan and get him out of the water. Jacob and I returned to our boats and he took off after the initial group. I conveyed that we still had a paddler (Ben) at the top of the drop and that I was going to wait and make sure he made it down safely. Ben descended the falls and the two of us worked our way down through the next series of class V ledges, catching up with Jarred after a few drops. At the bottom of the gorge, we came across Chris and Jacob, who had successfully gotten Logan out of the water and onto a flat boulder on river right. They were already administering CPR by the time I got down to them. After a quick conference, Jarred and I paddled down-stream to our camp to alert the other boaters in the area and to press our Spot device to signal search and rescue. Ben, Jacob and Chris stayed with Logan and continued to perform CPR. By the time they had gotten him onto the rock, he had probably been unconscious for 6-8 minutes.
As I was running down stream on the river right bank, I was able to signal to the large group of paddlers on the river left (at our camp) that something was wrong and they quickly made a satellite call to SARs and paddled over to river right to help. I’ve lost track of names in all the chaos of that day, but several paddlers, one of which was an ICU nurse came with me back upstream and were able to reach Logan and the boys to assist with CPR. After nearly an hour of CPR, the ICU nurse called the death and the other group of paddlers suggested that our team take a step back to decompress and offered to stay with Logan until the helicopter arrived.
From Chris Leach’s perspective: after he and Jacob headed down stream: Jacob and I corralled him against the boulder, Jacob got out first pulled Logan out and then helped me get out of my boat. We removed his vest and helmet and began CPR. The rest of the team arrived after 5 or 6 minutes of CPR. Ben got out of his boat and began helping. You and Jarred continued down stream. After 30 to 40 minutes of CPR the nurse appeared on the bank and began to ask us if he had a pulse, which he did not. A few minutes later several other people appeared on the bank and two descended the cliff wall to help out. These two identified themselves and their training (one being the nurse) and took over. After ten to 15 minutes of continued CPR the nurse again checked his pulse, found none, and we had a quick conversation about the reality of the situation regarding survivability after being without oxygen for that long of a period. This is when he made the call.
Around 1:30 PM, the helicopter arrived, circled the area and set down on river right. I didn’t watch what happened from there, but was told by others that two officers hiked into the scene with a backpack stretcher. With the help of the other paddlers, they were able to move Logan up the cliff side to a location that was suitable for the heli to pick them up and they by 3PM.
We had planned to spend another night on the river, but given the circumstances, wanted to get out of the canyon that evening. Our friends from the Mid-Atlantic graciously offered to lead us down the remainder of the run. Having just completed a descent 5 days prior, they knew all the lines and the portage routes. With their help, we reached Cherry Lake around 8 pm. A helpful motor boat driver offered to drive us across the lake and we were back to our cars by 8:45.
This report is meant to be a full description of the events that transpired for reference going forward. I’ve told the story as best as I can I hope this explanation sufficiently illustrates all the events of that day. I’ve attempted to leave emotion and opinions out of this description and focus on the decisions, actions, and occurrences that took place over the weekend. That aside, I want to mention how amazing it was to watch all the paddlers in the area work together to try and help the situation. The entire paddling population of Flintstone camp, on that day, was devoted to doing whatever was needed. So many talented people selflessly offered time and expertise in order to aid Logan. We, as a group, greatly appreciate that support.
Written by Nate Merrill
w/ contributions from the team.
Kayaker drowns along popular rapids in Tuolumne County
35-year-old victim was from Portland
Jul 04, 2016
TUOLUMNE COUNTY, Calif. —A 35-year-old man who had been on an outing with a group of friends this weekend drown after his kayak overturned along a popular and treacherous stretch of rapids in Tuolumne County. The group hiked the Cherry Bomb Gorge on Cherry Creek on Sunday then started down the rapids on their kayaks when one of them flipped over in the water. Rescue workers would later describe the conditions as dangerous due to high water levels and rapid flow of the river. When the man emerged from the water, he was unconscious.
His friends pulled him from the water and began CPR. A nearby kayaker used a satellite phone to call for help. Rescue crews from the Stanislaus and Tuolumne County sheriff's departments responded sometime after 11:30 a.m., when the initial call for assistance was made. Upon arrival, the victim, identified as Logan Farrell of Portland, Ore., was pronounced dead. Farrell was airlifted to the Columbia airport, where the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office coroner awaited his arrival. The Gorge is a popular destination for experienced kayakers in the Groveland area.