Accident Database

Report ID# 518

  • Equipment Trap
  • Does not Apply
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

The Lower Saluda River flows for nine miles from the Lake Murray Dam to downtown Columbia, SC. It contains a sprinkling of Class II rapids and one Class III: the Millrace. The flows are regulated by a hydropower dam, and usually run about 1000 cfs in the summer. September 12, 1998, the date of the accident, was also the date of the first Saluda rodeo, held at Millrace Rapid.

Just after the rodeo a tandem canoe flipped in Stacey’s ledge, just above Millrace Rapid. Local kayakers who were playing the rapid rescued one man. A second man, Richard Cribbs, 50, became entangled in a line attached to their canoe. The kayakers cut the line and tried to pull him in, but as they did his life vest slipped off. He lost consciousness and went under. A search was organized, and the body was recovered four days later.

SOURCE: The State, Columbia, SC ; Scott Broam, posting to; Bruce Fox via email

ANALYSIS: (WALBRIDGE) Although the pair was wearing life vests, they failed to store loose lines securely. It’s a common, and often fatal, mistak

The Saluda River near Columbia, SC has been the site of a very successful whitewater rodeo. It was reported to that the river level on September 12th was 4000 cfs, forming big-water Class III+ rapids. That afternoon, after the rodeo, a tandem open canoe flipped in Stacy's Ledge, 150 yards above the Millrace, and washed downstream. Newspaper articles sent in by Bryce Fox reported that one man swam to shore safely. The other, Richard Cribbs, 50, became entangled in some lines tied to the canoe. Kayakers made frantic efforts to rescue him without success. His life vest slipped off, and he disappeared from view. Divers recovered the body four days later.

As I was leaving the river around 2:00pm Sat. the 12th, a rescue crew showed up and started looking for a body .... A canoe flipped above Millrace. One guy was rescued, but the other was tangled in a line attached to the canoe. Some kayakers cut him loose, and another canoe tried to pull him in but couldn't get him in on the first attempt. On the second attempt, his PFD came off and he went under. He may have been unconscious at this point, I'm not sure. At least this is what I heard - I was leaving the rodeo at the time, and this is what they were saying... I could see the canoe, it was upside-down about 10-15 yards above the first rocks at Millrace. The paddlers flipped the canoe in Stacey's Ledge about 150 yards above Millrace and had flipped in Oh Brother just minutes earlier. The Saluda is cold in the low 50's and air temp was really hot-not a good combo for a poor swimmer as he was reported to be. It has been reported the PFD was not zipped up, and he was unconscious at the time. He slipped through and out of reach. A valiant effort on the rescuers part. They continue to search above Millrace for the body . Until weekend recreationalists learn to respect water and honestly evaluate their abilities or lack of ability, this will continue to happen. A PFD is not a fashion statement-it's a lifesaver, not the candy. This type of wreck is a daily event on the Saluda-thank God with usually better results.-Cheetahtrk




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