Accident Database

Report ID# 417

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Accident Description

Running along the border between and South Carolina, Section IV of the Chatooga contains some serious Class IV-V rapids studded with undercut rocks. On June 13, 1997 Ken Phinney, 24, decided to paddle this section. An occasional raft guide, he had been boating Class III-IV in his kayak for about six months. The water level was 1.8 feet, a moderate flow, and a boater  familiar with Section IV agreed to take him and a friend down.

Arriving at Crack in the Rock Rapid, the lead boater ran Right Crack and set up safety. Ken and his friend, despite strong warnings from the lead boater, beached their boats on river right and swam across the river so they could scout Left Crack. This drop filled with undercut rocks and has killed several others in past years. Phinney didn’t make it across, and washed into Left Crack feet first. He pinned horribly under several feet of water. It took rescue squads several days to pull him out, but his body was torn apart in the process.

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCE: David Martin, Christopher Smith, and Lee Belknap via email; Anderson Independent-Mail; unsigned first person account

 

 

 

 

 

Running along the border between Georgia and South Carolina, Section IV of the Chatooga contains some serious class IV-V rapids studded with undercut rocks. On June 13 Ken Phinney, 24, decided to paddle this section. An occasional raft guide, he had been boating class III-IV in his kayak for about six months. A boater familiar with Section IV agreed to take him and a friend down. Arriving at Crack in the Rock Rapid, the lead boater ran Right Crack and set up safety. Ken and his friend, despite warnings from the lead boater, inexplicably beached their boats and swam over to scout left and center crack. Left crack is full of undercut rocks and has claimed several lives in the past decade. Phinney was carried into the drop where he pinned under several feet of water. It took rescue squads several days to pull him out, and his body was torn apart in the process.

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) Left Crack is a well-known danger spot, and the victim was warned. It’s hard to know what else could have been done.

 

 

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