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Accident Description


On January 6, 1999 nine kayakers attempted a Class IV-V section of the East Fork of the Lewis River near Battleground, WA. Water levels were medium-high. Included in the group was John Manifold, 22, a strong Class IV+ kayaker from Colorado. The trip was uneventful until they encountered a gorge about 3/4 of a mile below Sunset Falls.

After scouting, Manifold was the first to attempt the rapid. He flipped at the entrance, then rolled up, facing upstream, against a cliff on river right. He tried to regain his balance and spin his boat, but was sideways as he crested the drop with no speed. His kayak slid under a large log and pinned vertically. This log, invisible even after scouting, was an 11 inch thick Douglas Fir about 1½ feet underwater. It was pinned in the chute perpendicular to the current.

Manifold was underwater, but still visible. He had an air pocket and survived for at least 70 minutes. The pin spot was almost completely inaccessible.  Members of the group took turns swimming to a midstream eddy just left of the kayak. From here, they could clip the stern loop and with considerable effort reach out to Manifold’s body. A couple of swimmers tried to push and pull his upper body out of the water, but he had an air pocket and fought efforts to move him. Lines were set up to pull side to side, up river and straight up. All attempts were unsuccessful; the group broke two throw ropes and the stern grab loop of the pinned kayak.

EMS and other kayakers arrived as Manifold’s original group was becoming exhausted. There was considerable frustration as the “rescuers” turned out to be ambulance personnel who did not have the gear or training to deal with the problem. Manifold was still alive, and tensions flared as the EMS personnel sized up the situation and Sheriff’s deputies took over the scene. Officers blocked an attempt by kayakers to use the winch from a logging truck by telling the driver to move on. They also detained a local kayaker who offered his help, then went to the riverside to view the accident. After ordering him to leave, officers handcuffed him and held him in a patrol car for several hours.

Eventually an EMS man rappelled down a cliff and attempted to attach a harness to Manifold. When this attempt failed, a large carabiner, rated at 12,000 pounds was hooked to the back of the kayak’s cockpit. Eight people pulled straight up on a 3:1 Z-drag, bending the carabiner without releasing the boat.

By now Manifold was probably dead, having long since succumbed to shock, exhaustion, and the probable loss of his air pocket. His body and kayak were extracted several days later through the combined efforts of expert local kayakers and EMS. A powerful winch, many feet of steel cable, and a specially designed steel hook made by a local kayaker, Mike Olson, were used to pull the boat free.

SOURCE: Mark Press and Scott Adler in the Oregon Canoe and Kayak Club newsletter; The Battleground, Washington Reflector  

ANALYSIS:

1. (Press and Andler) The log was not visible from shore, even with scouting. Regardless of skill level, it’s impossible to avoid a hazard that is unrecognizable. All those on the trip agreed that they would not have hesitated to run the same line.

2. (Walbridge) The throw lines which broke were ¼ inch polypropylene. These fail at 800 pounds or less, and are not strong enough to extricate badly pinned kayaks. Those who use a compact rescue bag as their primary throw rope are advised to upgrade to ¼ inch Spectra, which has more than double the breaking strength (about 2000 pounds). A 3/8 inch Spectra rope has a breaking strength of over 4,000 pounds! Note that grab loops must be kept in good repair and replaced regularly to be useful in a rescue.

 

On Saturday, January 6, a group of nine kayakers were attempting a class IV-V section of Washington's East Fork of the Lewis River at medium-high water. The Oregon Kayak and Canoe Club Newsletter describes the trip as uneventful until they encountered a gorge about 3/4 of a mile below Sunset Falls. After scouting Dave Manifold, running first, flipped at the top of the first drop and was pushed up against a cliff on river right. When he went over the next drop his bow slipped under an 11" diameter Douglas Fir. This tree was completely under water and was not seen by anyone when scouting. A vertical Pin resulted.

Manifold had an air pocket and survived for at least 70 minutes. The pin spot was almost completely inaccessible. His party attempted rescue, and were unable to make contact with the boat from an upstream eddy. They broke two throw ropes and tore out the stern grab loop while attempting to extricate the boat. Local rescue squads also responded; they were able to hook a carabiner rated at 12,000 pounds to the back of the cockpit but bent it during the rescue attempt. Eventually Manifold succumbed to shock, exhaustion, and the probable loss of the air pocket. His body was extracted several days later by EMS and local paddlers using a powerful winch. It should be noted that the throw lines which borke were 1/4 " polypropylene. These will fail at 800 pounds or less, and are not strong enough to extricate badly pinned kayaks. Those who use compact rescue bags as their primary throw rope are advised to upgrade to 1/4" spectra, which has more than double the breaking strength. We also note that grab loops must be kept in good repair and replaced regularly to be useful in a rescue.

Old Report: There was a fatal pinning on the East Fork, Lewis River in Washington State on January 6, 1996. River was extremely high. David Manifold, a Colorado boater, ran a chute next to a cliff. A log was under about 1 foot water and completely invisible. His bow nosed under in boiling, squirrely water and wrapped. He apparently struggled for fifteen minutes before going under. Rescue squad took several days to recover the body. Request additional information - see posting on reporting fatal accidents.