Accident Database

Report ID# 525

  • Equipment Trap
  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • Inadequate Equipment
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

A night of rockfishing ended in tragedy for two best friends in the swift water below Conewingo Dam on Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River.  On December 26, 1998 at around 7:00 p.m., the pair anchored their kiwi-style kayak from the cockpit. Later, when the dam’s generators were turned on, the river rose and swamped their boat. The pair were soon separated by the swift current and the icy water. One man, Chris Fedor, 25, is missing and presumed dead. The survivor clung to a rock for several hours, then swam to shore at 10:30 p.m. and called 911.

SOURCE: Baltimore Sun

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge)

1. The area below hydro dams is subject to sudden rises in water. Anyone using these areas needs to stay alert.

2. Anchoring a kayak by the center is an invitation to a swamping. If you must anchor a boat this small, drop the line from the bow ort stern and be very careful.

3.The pair was carrying life vests but not wearing them. Despite the late season they had no cold weather gear. They were clearly unprepared for a swim, which is the wrong approach for kayak paddlers.


The wide Susquehanna River in Eastern Maryland is not really whitewater, but the current can be fast and the water cold. The Baltimore Sun reported that on December 29th two friends put into the river at 7:00 PM just south of Connewingo Dam, intending an evening of rockfishing. The pair dropped anchor from the center of the boat, causing it to flip. The river, channeled by an island, is still over 200 yards wide here! The two men were quickly separated by the current The survivor, clinging to the boat, was washed into a rocky are where he screamed for help for almost an hour. Later he made it to shore and called 911. Christopher Fedor, 25, drowned.

Neither man wore PFD's or protective clothing; the life vests were found in the boat as required by state law. The survivor blamed the power company for raising the river level and swamping the boat, but anchoring small boats is tricky and the current alone could have caused the capsizing.

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!