Accident Database

Report ID# 46419

  • Swim into Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • Poor Group / Scene Management
  • High Water

Accident Description

Post by Chad Riddleburger on Facebook:


Location: Approximately 500 yards downstream of 9th Street Bridge SE. In middle of river on upstream side of scrub tree island.

Person's of interest: Two adults and one child.

Weather: Overcast 40 degrees. Did not have actual water temp but it was CHILLY.

River Conditions: 1020 CFS

Equipment: Three standard BIG BOX style sit in kayaks with paddles. PFD's were worn. No type of Rescue Equipment on hand.

Personal Equipment: Rain Gear (Coats and Pants), multiple layering of many different clothing types including cotton, and boots.Situation at hand: One kayak had turned over just prior to and/or right at upstream side of island. At no time was anyone caught under the water and/or pinned in their boat. One boat did fill with water and bottom pinned against the trees on the upstream side of the island. All three individuals were standing in water up to their waist attempting to unpin the boat.

Emergency Response: Roanoke Fire-EMS responded their Swift Water Rescue Team and additional resources with included activating Salem Fire-EMS Swift Water Rescue Team due to number of victims and unknown additional information. Victim locations were obtained by first arriving units and verbal communications gained. Command was set up to provide structure. Downstream safeties were established on both river left and river right. Victim profiles were established which took into account age, time in water, experience of victims, type of PPE and location of victims.

Actions Taken: Two of the individuals were able to self extricate to river right in the two kayaks.

Rescue: The third individual attempted to start wading river right. Rescue was attempting to keep individual in place to make an assisted rescue attempt back to river right. In a spilt second the individual was in water attempting to make forward strokes. Head was pointed downstream and no ferry angle. A split second decision was made by river right rescue swimmer (victim profile considered) to enter water via shallow water entry and gain victim contact about 20 yards out and began to ferry tow victim to river right. Multiple downstream safeties were in place and throw bag was placed in service to assist rescuer and victim. Individual removed from water and moved to Greenway to be turned over to additional medical treatment.

Educational Points:

Know your personal abilities and the abilities of the people going on the water with you.

Know your equipments limitations.

Know your environment and be prepared for it.

I hope this provides some clarity to the Blueway Rescue Incident. Education is going to pivotal in making our Blueway a success.

Raymond Williams shared a link to the group: Roanoke Area Paddlers.

Yesterday at 9:21 AM

Not a lot of details in the report. They were wearing PFD’s, and it’s not clear why two of the boaters were o.k. but one ended up under water. The level at the Glenvar gauge was about 4.62 and 1020 CFS. The yellow alert stage begins at 7.5 feet. This stretch below Carilion Hospital is rated Class 1-2.

Kurt, Richard, and I ran the section in Salem on Wednesday (2/27/29) at a level of 4.7, and it was a good, but swift level with some of the play features washed out, but still a safe level. Wouldn’t recommend it for beginners or inexperienced boaters at these levels, though. A swimmer could go a long ways in the current.

From Steven K. Wood: A 12 year old pinned his boat on an island, and dad gave him his boat and tried to wade to shore, but lost footing and swam. FD SWR was on seen, and set up even though they refused assistance. When he washed down they live baited him. By then he was hypothermic .

Dad went to hospital to warm up.


Roanoke Swift Water Rescue crews save trapped kayakers on Roanoke River

By Katie Potter - Producer

Posted: 8:46 PM, March 03, 2019

ROANOKE, Va. - The Roanoke Fire-EMS Swift Water Rescue team saves three kayakers trapped near the 9th Street Industrial Park in the Roanoke River. The team was called to the river around 5 p.m. after being told kayakers looked to be in trouble. Upon arrival, the kayakers told the Swift Water Rescue team they were OK. 

The rescue team stayed in the area, eventually rescuing a kayaker who got stuck underwater and almost swept away. Roanoke Fire-EMS says the victim was taken to the hospital with possible hypothermia, but no other injuries were reported, and everyone is okay.  Crews say the kayakers were wearing personal flotation devices.

Richard Krause - I want to thank all the guys that helped pull me out of the water yesterday. I am very thankful they were there and saved me from drowning. If it wouldn’t have been for these guys and swift water rescue i may not be here today. All three of are safe and are really glad everyone showed up. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart y'all were my guardian angels yesterday

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