Date
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Experienced/Inexperienced
Private/Commercial
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Accident Description


On August 6, 1997 Douglas Balls, 35, drowned on the Main Payette River near Boise, ID. His raft flipped at a rapid that guides call “Go left or you’re fired.” Balls’ group entered on the right hit a rock, and flipped. Three passengers were helped to shore but Balls drowned after he was pulled under the surface. His bright orange  “horse collar” life jacket came off as he was pulled under the surface.  

SOURCE: Vince Thompson, Vince’s Whitewater Page

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) Tom Long of Cascade Rafting Co. was quoted in the Idaho Statesman saying “The rafters didn’t know the river. But one piece of equipment would have saved this persons life – a life jacket. Not a rubber ducky, not water wings, not a pool toy – a real life jacket.” Type II horse collars are intended for flat water use. They are extremely hard to fit properly and will come off unless they are put on exactly right. They offer no back protection either. Anyone smart enough to adjust one correctly probably already owns a vest-type life preserver.

 

Vince Thompson, manager of the Idaho Whitewater Page, reported that Douglas Balls, 35, drowned on the Main Stem of the Payette River on August 8th. He was rafting with three friends when he arrived at a rapid called “Go Left or You’re Fired” by outfitters, and “The Play Wave” by kayakers. His group did not know the river. They ran right, hit a rock, and flipped. Balls’ life vest, a Type II horse collar PFD, was pulled off over his head as he went underwater. A Horse Collar PFD is quite uncomfortable, offers no back protection, and is extremely hard to adjust to fit properly. Anyone smart enough to adjust it correctly probably already owns a vest-type life preserver. His three companions were able to swim to shore safely.