Accident Database

Report ID# 533

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Accident Description

VIDEOGRAPHER DIES IN WINTER KAYAK ACCIDENT  

DESCRIPTION: The Ottawa River forms the border between Quebec and Ontario. North of Ottawa City the river contains excellent rapids which have been the site of many rodeo competitions. Lynn Clarke, 35, was an award-winning videographer best known for her films of adventure sports like rock climbing, bungee  jumping and, particularly, kayaking. She was an expert paddler who paddled rivers all over the world.

Despite the icy Canadian winter weather Ms. Clarke was on the Ottawa River on February 7, 1999. She was getting video footage of paddlers in the icy, snow-covered landscape.  She was preparing to videotape two other kayakers who were with her as they ran some small rapids. Suddenly her kayak overturned in the swift current. She bailed out, and was swept under an overhanging ice shelf. Newspapers show pictures of a broad river with a few riffles. It does not look dangerous until you realize that there are undercut ice banks along significant portions of the shore.

Her friends immediately summoned help from nearby residents, many of whom were river outfitters and guides. They responded with ice picks, axes and a  chainsaw. During the rescue attempt Ms. Clarke could be seen underneath the ice, about two meters from the edge, but the swift current prevented them from reaching her. They recovered her lifeless body about 40 minutes later. She was rushed to a  waiting ambulance and taken to Pembroke General Hospital but could not be revived.

Source: Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Sun 

1. Ice is a significant hazard of river running in the cold months. It adds a dangerous dimension to whitewater boating, creating massive, sometimes unavoidable undercuts. These dangers are subtle, ever-changing, and often unexpected. Many people in Northern climates simply do not boat until the ice clears out. Ms. Clarke ran into some very bad luck in an extremely dangerous area .

2. Videography requires great concentration. It is possible that Ms. Clark, distracted by her camera, was not being as attentive to the river as she could have been. This should serve as a warning to all photographers and videographers to concentrate on the river when in the current, even in areas without significant rapids. A very strong roll is essential, but hard to execute in icy water.

 

Artical Preliminary

From: Garry Hamilton Newsgroups: rec.boats.paddle

Date: Monday, February 08, 1999

Subject: Death on the Ottawa River The following was posted on the Ottawa Sun web site. This is horrible news. I've seen several of Lynn's films. She will be missed. Garry Award-winning videographer dies in kayak accident

PEMBROKE, Ont. (CP) -- An award-winning videographer drowned Sunday when her kayak tipped over as she was trying to videotape some friends going through rapids. Lynn Clarke, 35, of nearby Foresters Falls, was kayaking on the Ottawa River in Westmeath Township, provincial police said. She was preparing to film two other kayakers who were with her in some small rapids when her kayak overturned in the swift current, dumping her, police said.

After she was swept under the ice, her friends summoned help from nearby residents. Frantically working with ice picks, an axe and a chainsaw, they found her lifeless body about 40 minutes later. She was rushed to a waiting ambulance and taken to Pembroke General Hospital but could not be revived.

Joe Kowalski, a close friend who helped retrieve Clarke, said she specialized in videos about the outdoors. "She's certainly one of the world's top videographers," he said. She was best known for her adventure films of people rock climbing, bungee jumping and, particularly, kayaking, all of which were made in her Greenhouse Productions home studio. Several of her works won awards in competitions such as the Banff International Festival of Mountain Films. A 1996 film, Kayaks and Coconuts, an account of kayaking adventures from Ottawa to South America and back, was one of 25 works chosen from 180 entries in the Banff festival for The Best of Banff collection. It was subsequently screened around the world.

Clarke also prepared instructional videos for companies. Gaye Clarke, who is no relation to the dead woman, helped in the futile rescue effort to save his longtime friend. He said Clarke ran into bad luck in a dangerous spot along the river. "It's a death trap," he said of the fast-running water. "It was bad luck, but still a poor choice of an area to do it." During the rescue attempt, the woman could be seen underneath the ice, but the fast current prevented rescuers from reaching her. She was about two metres from the end of the sheet of ice.

Clarke, who was unmarried and had no children, had just returned from a video assignment in Chile.

(Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Sun)

February is not a popular month for kayaking, especially in Canada, because of cold temperatures and ice. But on the 7th of that month Lynn Clark, 36, an award-winning videographer, was filming two other kayakers on the Ottawa River near Beachburg, Ontario when she was swept against an overhanging ice shelf. Her boat flipped, and she was pulled under the ice. Her companions, who did not see the flip, came upon her kayak pressed against the shelf. They summoned help from nearby residents, who attempted to cut through the ice with axes, picks, and even a chain saw! Her body was found 40 minutes later, and resuscitation efforts were not successful. Ice is a constant hazard for winter boaters, and it possible that Ms. Clarks filming activity may have distracted her so she did not appreciate its danger until it was too late.

 

2. Videography requires great concentration. It is possible that Ms. Clark, distracted by her camera, was not being as attentive to the river as she could have been. This should serve as a warning to all photographers and videographers to concentrate on the river when in the current, even in areas without significant rapids. A very strong roll is essential, but hard to execute in icy water.

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