Accident Database

Report ID# 477

  • Pinned in Boat Against Strainer
  • Hypothermia
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

On February 22, 1998 Vivian Sinott, 35, was paddling tandem with her husband on the Ramapo River near Mawah, NJ . Another tandem canoe and a kayak accompanied them. Their PFD’s were in their boats, but no one was wearing one. The Sinott’s canoe hit a downed tree, broached, and flipped. Her husband was thrown free, but Ms. Sinott, became trapped between the canoe and the tree under six feet of moving water. Local citizens saw what happened and called 911. Emergency workers first tried to move the canoe without success. Then a police officer, standing in two feet of water, cut into the tree using a local resident’s chain saw. Firefighters arrived, attached a rope to the log, and pulled it loose with the winch on their fire truck. They positioned another police officer downstream, tied into a tree surrounded by water. He caught Ms. Sinott after she floated free. Her total time under water was roughly thirty minutes. Both  she and her husband were transported to Valley Hospital . She was put on life support and later pronounced dead. Her husband was treated for hypothermia and released


SOURCE: New Jersey Record; New Jersey Suburban Trends


ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) Although wearing life vests would not have prevented the accident, they suggest that the group had little experience with moving water. Newspaper photos show that the strainer that was large and avoidable. The use of full flotation in the canoe might have made the pin more manageable.


Posted by Joe Pylka on March 01, 1998

There was a paddling related death on the Ramapo River near Oakland, NJ on February 22nd. Evidently a husband and wife went onto the river at high water levels and hit a strainer. The husband was rescued but the wife was pronounced dead at the local hospital. The article is in the Monday edition of the Bergen Record. Neither paddler was wearing a PFD. There's been a lot of comment lately on RBP and even in the latest issue of AMC Outdoors regarding paddler fatalities last year, mainly among experienced paddlers. Nonetheless-- Many, many fatalities occur among paddlers that we more knowledgeable ones have never met or heard of. And they are often caused by omitting or ignoring things we take for granted, such as: wearing a PFD, having adequate thermal protection, avoiding strainers, and carrying by low head dams. Somehow, our knowledge about paddling is not reaching these people. In 1996 there were 5 preventable paddling deaths in NJ, caused by the above reasons. What can we do to get the word out?

On February 22 Vivian Sinott, 35 was pinned against a strainer on New Jersey's Ramapo River near Mawah, NJ Newspaper. Articles forwarded by a member of American Whitewater reported that Ms. Sinot was paddling tandem with her husband. They were accompanied by another tandem canoe and a kayak. No one was wearing a PFD. Rescue workers were called, but her body was trapped under six feet of water for 30 minutes. The pin was released by firefighters who attached a rope to the log and pulled it loose. Both she and her husband were transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

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