Accident Database

Report ID# 514

  • Swim into Rock or Sieve
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

The Ocoee River is one of the most popular commercial runs in the East. Roughly 250,000 people make the trip annually. Recently releases have been obtained for the upper section, above the Olympic site. Bruce Lee Richards, 30, died while running this section on August 23, 1998. This was the first death on the river’s upper section.

The accident occurred in an unnamed rapid just upstream from the Ocoee Whitewater Center . Mr. Richards was among a group of rafters in a boat that hit a rock broadside. He and several others were thrown into the water. Mr. Richards apparently was pinned underwater in a pothole or sieve. He was under for a while before guides could free him. Rescue personnel were called and he was taken to a local hospital where he died the following day.

SOURCE: Chattanooga Times, posted to

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) This section of river has a number of hidden rock sieves, making swims more hazardous than you might expect. The best solution: stay in the boat!


There was a fatality on the upper Ocoee river just this past Saturday. It was a commercial rafting guest. (adult male, 29 or 30) The cause was foot entrapment secondary to falling out of the boat. The victim was pulled from the water around Mikes rapid or Blue Hole after being under for five minutes. CPR was begun until paramedics arrived. Apparently he was air lifted from Polk county to Erlanger Medical Center where he never regained concousness. He passed away Sunday morning.

I am completely sure of everything of everything in this letter as stated. You will get much more information from others. I arrived after the patient had just left for Polk County hospital. I am aware that the entire event was caught on tape by a raft guide....if I can answer any more questions or help pls. dont hesitate to call.

Slim Ray reported an August 22nd fatality on Tennessee's Upper Ocoee River. This run is similar to the Lower Ocoee (Class III+, with one IV) except that these rapids contain some hidden boulder sieves. This is the first year of full commercial operations on this stretch. A commercial raft hit a boulder sideways near the Blue Hole, throwing three guests into the river. Two were recovered quickly, but a third, Bruce Richards, 30, was stuffed into a pothole and held under water for about 5 minutes. Guides eventually pulled him free and started CPR. He was transported to a Chattanooga hospital by EMS personnel where he died the next day.




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