Accident Database

Report ID# 50563

  • Pinned in Boat Against Strainer
  • Does not Apply

Accident Description

Scenario 2 – Middle Fork Kings - August 14th 2019 

The week before, the victim and myself had paddled the Middle Fork Kings at high water and scouted the entire gorge above Simpson Meadow and seen the log in one of the rapids. At those high flows, the log was easy to avoid and there was a huge eddy above the log. 

The next week we returned to the Middle Kings with a group of 4, two of us having done the run the week prior, and the other two paddlers also having experience on the run. Everyone in the group has years of class V+ experience. 

With much lower water than the week before, we were making quick time down to the gorge. At the top of the gorge, we had a quick conversation to make sure we all caught the eddy on the right above the log because we were almost certain we would have to portage at these lower water levels. I went first and caught the eddy, the other 2 paddlers were right behind me. In the victim’s words, they got a little lazy, too complacent, and didn’t paddle hard enough in to the eddy. Once they realized he wasn’t going to make it, they committed to running the rapid and attempting to go over the log. The rapid is a sharp right hand turn with the log spanning the entire channel just after the turn finishes. The last week at high water, all the water was pushing higher over the log on river left and the outside of the bend. But with the lower water, it was no longer pushing over the log and it was tilted so that the higher part of the log was on the outside of the bend. 

The victim didn’t have time to generate speed to go over the log so they hit it sideways and tried to get over it, but was unable to. At this point their stern sank so that they were pinned with their bow in the air and their cockpit downstream in to the strainer. The other 3 of us were out of our boats and trying get out to the victim, but it was too continuous downstream for us to get in the water and too far for us to get to the other side of the river. After about 10-15 seconds, the victim was able to work their head through the log jam to get their head up on the downstream side. The victim was now pinned bow up in the air, cockpit facing downstream, and the log across their spray skirt. In a feat of massive strength, they grabbed the log and wiggled out of their skirt tunnel as they was unable to pull the skirt. They pulled them self on to the rock on river left next to the log as the boat stayed put. We got the victim, the skirt, and boat back to river right with no other issues. 

After the incident, the victim told us they didn’t know if they would have thought to wiggle out of the skirt had they not heard the first story of another pin on the East Kaweah, or had their webbing around their waist as they had done for years. Again, I don’t know what we could have done in this situation as any kind of water based rescue was out of the equation because of the hazards downstream, and their head was under the log.

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