Accident Database

Report ID# 559

  • Pinned in Boat against Rock or Sieve
  • Does not Apply

Accident Description

Indiana; May 30,1989

DESCRIPTION: A Chicago woman drowned Monday when the canoe she was in capsized and pinned her against a rock in Sugar Creek on May 30, 1989. Debra M. Skinner, 24, was pronounced dead at 11:35 a.m. by the Park County deputy coroner.

Skinner and a companion, Joseph Fessler, 25, also of Chicago, were canoeing in Shades State Park when their boat struck a large rock in the middle of the swollen creek, said conservation officer Ken Hutchins of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The canoe went sideways, throwing Fessler into the creek, Skinner fell out when the boat capsized and she was pinned between it and the boulder, Hutchins said.

The force of the current pulled both Skinner and the canoe under water, trapping them against the rock. Hutchins finally was able to free Skinner by prying the canoe loose with a steel pole.

Another Chicago couple was in another canoe, but they were not injured. Neither Skinner nor Fessier were wearing life preservers and there was just one floatation cushion in the canoe. A preserver probably would not have saved Skinner because she was pinned by the strong current.

SOURCE: Indianapolis Star

ANALYSIS: Inexperience was the primary cause of this tragedy. Getting caught between an open canoe with or without flotation and a rock in fast current is always dangerous, and paddlers are advised to push swim away from swamped boats when necessary to avoid this type of accident.

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!