Accident Database

Report ID# 615

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

Accident Description

On August 13, 1999 Linsay Gillespie, 14, fell out of a guided raft at Lower Railroad Rapid on West Virginia’s New River following a collision with a rock. The River, one of the safest and most popular commercial rafting runs in the country, was running quite low (-3.5 feet) due to the extreme drought. . This exposes a few dangerous undercut rocks. Ms. Gillespie ended up under Clamshell Rock, a very deep and nasty undercut which also contained some wood  She was trapped for roughly 11 minutes. Guides worked rapidly to free her, then began CPR. They maintained her vital signs during the evacuation, first on foot and by vehicle, later by a helicopter waiting at the rim of the gorge. Despite these efforts, she never regained consciousness and died in the hospital the next day.

SOURCES: The NPS Morning Report, Charleston Gazette, Chuck Brabec posting to, Local Outfitters

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) Lower Railroad Rapid at below “0” on the Fayette Station Gauge has been responsible for two other fatalities, both involving kayakers. It deserves considerable respect, and those unfamiliar with the rapid should scout it at these levels.

From: Chuck & Nancy Brabec

To: padlnjones ; CCC-LIST

Date: Monday, August 16, 1999 11:12 AM

Subject: Re: [CCC] Raft safety- New River Gorge

The Sunday morning newspaper said that the woman who came out of the raft at lower railroad was in serious condition in a Charleston hospital. I haen’t heard any more since then. We paddled the New yesterday (Sunday) and there was a chopper flying around near the Keeneys while we were in that area. I found out later that they were searching for another possible body from a separate accident. A fisherman drowned after falling in the river below Sandstone Falls. His body was recovered about 3:45 pm yesterday.

The New gorge is dangerous at these low water levels. Even the raft companies are having a hrad time picking lines and they often get hung up on rocks. Don’t tailgate behind rafts in the rapids. They often get hung up on the rocks and you could easily be pinned under a raft if you can’t stop in a eddy before running into the. Please be careful when you are on the river. Chuck padlnjones wrote: I was at the New Fri & Sat, running about minus 2 feet. On Friday, when we got to Lower Railroad (about 2 p.m.), a raft was pinned in the far left drop. The rafts were stacked up in the pool, waiting to run a route down the center, just right of the clamshell undercut. In the half hour we were there, they didn’t budge the raft... when we got off the river , we were told that a girl had fallen out of a raft and gotten swept into that undercut. She was in there by one report, 8 minutes, by another, 12 minutes. The guides were able to free her, she was rusussitated, evacuated, and later was found to be “brain-dead”. This paragraph is based on second hand info...I don’t know if this happened before or after the raft pinned.





Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!