Accident Database

Report ID# 431

Help
  • Caught in a Natural Hydraulic
  • Does not Apply
  • High Water

Accident Description

DESCRIPTION: On June 9, 1996 Idaho's Selway River, which is very big and powerful at levels of over 6 feet, was running at 8-10 feet. A group consisting of an oar boat, two paddle boats, and a kayak decided not to do the wilderness run and attempted instead the roadside stretch upstream of the put-in. This stretch is actually in Montana and is very steep and continuous. The rafts hit rough water almost immediately, and several people were tossed into the river. Two of the swimmers were caught in a hole and were brought back into the raft unconscious. Another party, scouting the river by car, saw the swimmers and managed to reach the raft carrying the victims with a throw bag. CPR was started; one man responded quickly, but the victim, Bret Petry, 29,  did not.

SOURCE: Doug Purl and Bruce Mason, posting to rec.boats.paddle

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) Flush-drowning, the term used to describe accidents in which a paddler drowns while swimming a long distance in rapids in a PFD, is a recurring problem in river rafting accidents. It can effect parties of any skill level. When a raft flips, many people are thrown into the water. They often become separated, making recovery difficult. Some rafters, both commercial and private, travel in one-boat trips, so there is no one around to pick up swimmers. Unusually high water contributed to most of the incidents described above.

 

On June 9, 1996, on Idaho's Selway River, which is very difficult at levels of over 6', was running at 8-10'. Bruce Mason, posting to rec.boats.paddle, describes the fatal accident that occurred there as follows: A group consisting of an oar boat, two paddle boats, and a kayak decided not to do the wilderness run and attempted instead the roadside stretch upstream of the put-in. This stretch is actually in Montana. Over 15 years ago I found this section at 5' to be surprisingly pushy and turbulent. The rafts hit rough water almost immediately, and several people were tossed into the river. Two of the swimmers were caught in a hole and were brought back into the raft unconscious. Another party, scouting the river by car, saw the swimmers and managed to reach the raft carrying the victims with a throw bag. CPR was started; one man responded quickly, but the victim, Bret Petry, did not.  

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!