Date
Victim
Victim Age
River
Section
Location
Gage
Water Level
Difficulty
Cause
Cause Code(s)
Injury Type(s)
Factors Code(s)
Experienced/Inexperienced
Private/Commercial
Boat Type
Group Info
Other Victim Names
Status

Accident Description


On September 4, 1999 a canoe carrying a family of four broached on a mid-stream rock while running a Class II section of the Housatonic River near Gaylordsville, CT. The canoe tipped, filled with water, and wrapped around the rock with astonishing speed. Tara Butler, 10, was caught between the boat and the rock. Although she was wearing a life vest, it did not help as she struggled to keep her head above water. Her father made several rescue attempts, but was thwarted by the swift current. Family members ran to Route 7, which runs alongside the river, and flagged down a car. Volunteer firefighters, who were holding an open house less than a quarter of a mile away, responded quickly but could not reach her in time. Several of the firemen who were attempting a rescue got carried some distance downstream by the current.

SOURCE: New Milford, CT Times  

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge)

1. This family clearly lacked the necessary experience to paddle white water safely, and this turned a pleasant outing into a tragedy.

On September 4th or 5th a canoe carrying a family of four broached on a mid-stream rock while running a Class II section of the Housatonic River near Gaylordsville, Connecticut. Very quickly the canoe tipped, filled with water, and wrapped. According to an article in the New Milford News Times, Tara Butler, 10, was caught between the boat and the rock. Although she was wearing a life vest, it was of no help as she struggled to keep her head above water. Her father made several rescue attempts, but was thwarted by the swift current. Family members ran to Route 7, which runs alongside the river, and flagged down a car. Volunteer firefighters, who were holding an open house less than a quarter of a mile away, responded quickly but could not reach her in time. Several of the firemen were carried some distance downstream by the current.

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge)

1. This family clearly lacked the necessary experience to paddle white water safely, and this turned a pleasant outing into a tragedy.

2. The canoe may have been overloaded, making it less stable and harder to maneuver. Although this was a safe load for flatwater trips, two adults, and perhaps one small child, should be the maximum for running whitewater.  

3. The absence of a second boat and rescue gear left the family no margin for error, and made rescue almost impossible.

4. The absence of flotation in the canoe greatly increased the pressure on the boat  and added to the difficulty of rescue.

5. The area between a whitewater boat and a pinning rock is extremely dangerous, and learning to avoid it is a vital part of a pre-trip briefing.