Accident Database

Report ID# 492

Help
  • Pinned in Boat Against Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Inadequate Equipment
  • Solo Paddling
  • High Water

Accident Description

The Indian Head River runs along the MA/NH border. It is not a whitewater stream, but it was running high and fast from recent rains. On June 14, 1998 Matthew Hillier, 19, was running the river alone in a homemade plywood kayak. He’d run the river before and was wearing a PFD and helmet. He was found pinned underwater against a strainer by another paddler, who noted that Miller’s feet had broken clear through the kayak hull.  The Hanover, Fire Department was called in to perform the difficult and dangerous extrication.

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCE: Boston Globe; Lee Bardin, and Ben Bramledge

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe/globehtml/167/Drowned_kayaker_sought_ch allenges.htm The short story is: Matthew J. Hiller, age 18, apparently flipped and pinned in/on a strainer on the Indian Head River in Massachusetts this past Sunday while paddling alone. I was in that area of the country myself (Manchester, NH) and can report that nearly every stream was rapidly rising due to torrential rains during the preceeding 36 hours: the Merrimack rose so far and so fast that the slalom race I was there for was cancelled.In June of 1998 an unrelenting series of thunderstorms lashed the Northeast. This created a number of serious problems. Articles forwarded by rescue expert Slim Ray detailed the damage. Kids were washed from front porches; pedestrians were sucked into culverts and cars were pushed off of bridges and roadways. There was widespread destructive flooding throughout New England, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the Midwest. Dozens were killed, During this period, on June 14th, Matthew Miller, 19, was running the Indian Head River alone in a home-made plywood kayak. He was pinned underwater against a strainer and killed. He was found by another paddler, who notified the Weymouth, Massachussets Fire Department. They began the difficult and dangerous extrication.

 

Newspaper articles reported that the Indian Head River runs along the MA/NH border. It is not a whitewater stream, but it was running very high and fast from recent rains. The victim was wearing a PFD and helmet. His feet apparently broke through the kayak hull. Miller's sister told reporters that he was a great all-around outdoorsman, but that he "really liked" to paddle alone. In these conditions it was a mistake to do so.

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge)

 

 

 

 

 

1. Strainers are dangerous, especially in high water. The risk may have been increased because of the homemade boat, which may not have been suitable for use in strong current.

 

2. Miller's sister told reporters that her brother was a great all-around outdoorsman, but that he "really liked doing it (paddling) by himself”. While it’s unclear if a second person could have helped him, it would have certainly increased his margin of safety.

 

 

 

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!