Accident Database

Report ID# 452

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  • Swim into Strainer
  • Heart Attack / Heart Failure
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Accident Description

Early June saw two drownings on the Truckee River on the West slope of the Sierras west of Reno, Nevada on June 9th and 10th. Internet postings report that on June 10th, on the main Truckee, a commercial rafter ejected from a raft after hitting a rock in Bronco Billy rapid near Floriston. The victim was caught underwater by a submerged tree limb despite the presence of a county rescue team training in the area.

On June 10, 1997 a group of Lake Tahoe conference attendees were taking a two-hour chartered raft trip down the main Truckee River near Floriston, NV. At Class III+ Bronco Billy Rapid guides asked guests if they wanted to walk around, but no one did. Below here a raft capsized after hitting a rock, throwing six guests and a guide into the river, Two guests and a guide were able to swim to shore; three others were picked up by other rafts in the group. But Donald Eithun, 39, was pinned underwater by a submerged tree limb. His head and shoulders were out of the water, but he was not breathing. Guides pulled him out of the water and began CPR. The drowning occurred despite the presence of a county rescue team training in the area.  

SOURCE: Charles Albright; California Boating Accident Report 

ANALYSIS: (From Sheriff’s  Report)

1. The guide and passengers believed that the capsizing was caused by the victim’s actions after hitting the rock. Instead of throwing his weight to the downstream tube, Eithun, a large man, leaned away and fell out on the upstream side.  

2. The Sheriff’s report noted that Eithun had a heart condition. He was caught on the log in a heads up position, and was never held under water. His health, combined with the cold water, might explain why he drowned despite being by the log caught in a seemingly harmless way.

3. Witnesses report that guides gave a very thorough safety talk. It included high-siding, swimming, and dealing with a broached boat.  

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