On May 27, 1997, Dan Wagner of Pocatello, ID was part of a group of 7 making an early season run on Idaho's Middle Fork of the Salmon. Internet postings report that the group put on at Marsh Creek because the road to Dagger Falls was snowed in. The gauge read 7.7', a very high level. At this level Idaho paddler Doug Purl describes the run as "a screaming toboggan ride.... a half stroke from disaster." Needless to say, the water is extremely cold.
Two people in a cataraft flipped at Murphy's Hole, one mile from Dagger Falls. One of the two got swept away. The group chased the swimmer down to Velvet Falls; a river wide reversal with a very small break at this level. Here a second raft flipped and recovering this boat ended the chase. The victim was swept all the way to Indian Creek, normally a day's travel downstream. in less than two Hours! He apparently died of hypothermia, although the long difficult swim certainly contributed to his death.
ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) .
1. The victim had the right clothing for a cold water trip, but he floated in extremely cold water for three hours before reaching Indian Creek. He probably died of hypothermia, although the long difficult swim certainly contributed to his death.
2.When chasing people, especially in high water, be careful not to get into trouble yourself. If you encounter trouble you may find yourself “out there” more than you might like!