Date
Victim
Victim Age
River
Section
Location
Gage
Water Level
Difficulty
Cause
Cause Code(s)
Injury Type(s)
Factors Code(s)
Experienced/Inexperienced
Private/Commercial
Boat Type
Status

Accident Description


On September 27, 1997 Melvin Fisher, 40, was on a private trip through Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River. The party included four rafts and two IK’s. The river flow was 17,220 cfs, a moderate level.  Fisher’s raft flipped in Little Niagara, a bad pourover in Drop #2, dumping seven people into the water. This hole has been the site of several other fatalities. Fisher washed two miles through four more Class IV rapids before his party, which has other people to recover, could catch up. He was pulled from the water blue and without a pulse. The group started CPR, then following wilderness protocols, stopped the procedure after 30 minutes. They paddled out and reported the accident to the Park Service. His body was removed by helicopter the next day. 

 

SOURCE: National Park Service Morning Report
ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) This is the tenth fatality in Cataract Canyon since the park was founded. The stretch where this accident occurred is very continuous, so rescue is not easy. In addition to having seven swimmers in the water, the group was already working to rescue an IK paddler. In the confusion, Fisher slipped by. 

 

When rafts flip, a lot of people fall in the water. It’s important to have enough boats along to help them. Furthermore, trouble seems to strike in clusters. We must be careful not to become so distracted by one rescue that we can’t recognize and respond to other problems.  
 

On September 27th Melvin Fisher, 40, died while rafting the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon. The National Park Service reported that his trip included four rafts and two IK’s. The river flow was 17,220 cfs, a moderate level. Fisher’s raft flipped in Little Niagara, a bad pourover in Drop #2, dumping seven people into the water. This hole has been the site of several other fatalities. This stretch downstream is very continuous, and rescue is not easy. Furthermore, his group was rescuing an IK paddler and was probably out of position when the flip occurred. Fisher washed two miles through four more rapids before his party could catch up. He was found was blue and pulseless. The group started CPR, then following wilderness protocols, stopped the procedure after 30 minutes. They paddled out and reported the accident to the Park Service. The body was helicoptered out the next day.