On March 1, 1996 's Futalefu River was running at a nine-year low. Zeta is notorious: a short, enormously powerful "nozzle-type" Class V+ rapid. It is one of the toughest drops on the river, and most people portage it. Steve "Rocky" Fairchile, a kayaker from Ventura, CA , drowned while attempting to run it. He was a guide for Bio Bio Expeditions and was paddling the river with two other boaters. They walked the rapid and set up safety for their friend.
Mike Hipsher described the accident as follows:
“Fairchile’s run began straight down the middle of the rapid. He flipped in the diagonal wave/hole that dominates the middle of the rapid,. He washed to the left at the nozzle, bumping against the outcrop on the left wall. He teetered upside down at the outcrop for a moment, then, rather than catching the downstream current, the boat flushed into the left eddy . After several roll attempts in this turbulent eddy, he bailed out. He surfaced, and was slowly recirculated to the top of the eddy, where he and his boat disappeared. The boat popped back up shortly, but Fairchile was held under for two minutes.
“His partners spotted him floating face down below the second turn in the rapid. They began CPR and this temporarily revived Fairchile to the point that he could recognize them. With time, his condition deteriorated to unconsciousness, followed by cession of breathing and heartbeat. A SOBEK raft trip arrived on the scene. Their safety boaters and two doctors assisted with CPR and additional medical treatment. With no success after 2½ hours of treatment, they stopped their efforts as dictated by wilderness protocols.”
SOURCE: Mike Hipsher; Ken and Juliet Kastorf
ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) This sort of calamity can happen whenever mistakes are made in a rapid of this magnitude, and this must be taken into account by all boaters contemplating a run. To expect that everything will go according to plan is foolish.
On March 1, 1996, Steve "Rocky" Fairchile, a Ventura, California Kayaker, drowned while attempting the notorious Zeta rapid on Chile's Futalefu River. The river was running at a nine-year low. Zeta itself is a short, enormously powerful "nozzle-type" rapid in the Class V+ range that most people portage. Mike Hipsher, after talking with the two local guides who accompanied the victim, reported that Rocky flipped in a diagonal wave part way down and was washed against the left hand wall into a very turbulent eddy. After several roll attempts he bailled out, surfaced, and was carried to the top of the eddy where both he and his boat were pulled under water. His partners spotted him floating downstream several minutes later. The pair actually revived Rocky momentarily with rescue breathing, but his condition deteriorated and he lost consciousness. Aided by tow doctors who were travelling with a SOBEK raft trip, they continued resuscitation efforts without success. This sort of calamity can happen whenever mistakes are made in a rapid of this magnitude, and this must be taken into account by all boaters contemplating a run.