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

Accident Description


Alabama teens say adults attacked them on river float trip

Huntsville High School graduate Collins Nelson talks to reporters June 4, 2019, about a group of men and women he says attacked him and his friends on a river float trip.

Huntsville High School graduate Collins Nelson talks to reporters June 4, 2019, about a group of men and women he says attacked him and his friends on a river float trip.

A group of Huntsville high school students and recent graduates say they were attacked, beaten and threatened with rape on a weekend float trip down a north Alabama river.

Collins Nelson, 18, of Huntsville and several other students met reporters at his attorney’s office Tuesday. Attorney Will League said Nelson, who graduated this year from Huntsville High School, suffered a broken nose and a broken eye socket that will require surgery. He is suing for damages and will seek felony arrest warrants against his alleged attackers, League said.

Nelson said he and his friends were out Sunday on the Flint River, a popular kayaking and canoeing destination in eastern Madison County. A girl with the group said there were nine boys and five girls in their party. The group had beer in their coolers but were not drunk, Nelson said.

Nelson said a man paddling behind them was heckling the group and calling him a “sissy boy.” The teens said they responded, calling the man the same thing, but then decided to try to get away after the man threatened one of the girls with rape and said he and his friends would see them downriver.

“We proceed to go down the river a little more and hear his friends running through the woods telling us just to be ready,” Nelson said.

When they got to a bank with sand bars, the other group ran into the water, Nelson said, “and it was just chaos from there, flipping our kayaks, flipped my kayak, some man put me in a headlock and proceeded to beat my face.”

Nelson said he was attacked by two men and held under water, and he didn’t remember of the fight much beyond that.

Nelson said the students finally got moving down river with the other group following them. They tried to get help from four groups of adults on the river, he said. “It took about four tries,” Nelson said, “and we reached somebody and he’s helping us and the people that did this to us went by still heckling us….”

A 16-year-old girl with Nelson’s group said she heard the man threaten to rape one of the girls in the first confrontation. After the man left vowing to see them downriver, she said the teens discussed their options: try to paddle back up river, try to hike out, or continue down river and “paddle as fast as we can” past anyone waiting.

The girl, who asked not to be identified, said they decided to go ahead and soon saw a large group of men and women running up and down the bank “yelling animal noises and ‘We got you!’” She managed to paddle past the fight that followed but saw one of her friends flipped over in the river.

Another of her girlfriends was “ripped off the kayak” by a woman who pulled her by the hair and forced her under water “trying to drown her,” she said. The girl got away crying and gasping, she said.

Someone on the river called the police, who were waiting when they finally made it to the takeout point, the girl said. “If the police hadn’t been there," she said, "I think these people would have continued to beat us up. I think that was their intention.”

It “definitely” could have been worse, the girl said. “Thank God he’s alive,” she said of Nelson. “It was that bad.”

A police spokesman said the responding officers did not see evidence of serious injury, making the case a misdemeanor. But attorney League said his client and others in the group would talk to magistrates on Wednesday and swear out felony warrants. He identified two alleged attackers and said they are being sued.