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Accident Description


On September 9, 1996 West Virginia's Lower Meadow River once again claimed the life of an expert kayaker. This steep, technical Class V run is noted for an abundance of undercut rocks. On the day of the accident it was flowing at 700 cfs, a moderate level, and dropping slowly. Scott Hasson, 25, was the manager of a kayak shop in Roanoke, Virginia. He had lived in Fayetteville, West Virginia for many years and made over 100 runs of the Lower Meadow. A veteran guide and video boater, he was well known and liked by area river runners.

Hasson was running in a very short, blunt creek boat, with a single companion. His bow hit a rock, causing him to miss a boof into an eddy at "Hell's Gate", the second big rapid below Route 19. He disappeared completely into a large, hidden sieve. This is just downstream of a spot where he had gotten into trouble the previous year. His partner eddied out, but although Hasson’s paddle popped out fairly quickly there was no sign of  him or his boat.

Other groups arrived within minutes and began searching the area without success. Four hours later Rob Dobson, a veteran Wildwater Unlimited guide and a good friend of Hasson's, arrived at the scene. Dobson knew this rapid well, and had a good idea of where to look. He was lowered on a rescue PFD towards the drain, where he located Hasson's kayak under several feet of water. He moved to a spot just downstream, and spotted Hasson’s body between huge boulders. Ropes were attached to the boat, and after some manipulation his body was pulled out on the downstream side of the sieve.

SOURCE: Donnie Hudspeth, Rob Dobson, VW.DNR Accident Summary; Charleston Gazette; Roanoke Times; Clay Wright, Vaughn Arthur, and Bic Ulrich posting to rec.boats.paddle; other local paddlers

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge)

1. The Meadow River is notorious for the undercut rocks and boulder sieves which add considerable danger to this already difficult run. There have been several fatalities and a number of narrow escapes since it was first run back in 1971. Several boaters have been forced under giant boulders, with most popping out downstream.

2. Some boaters have suggested that the short ten foot length of Hasson's boat may have been a liability, allowing it to be forced into a spot that a larger boat would have bridged. Although very maneuverable and hard to pin vertically, short boats may fit into cracks and sieves while longer boats just slide across.