Accident Database

Report ID# 630

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

Accident Description

From: Brian Gardel

The following message was sent to me by Chis Emerick who was with Robin during the tragic event. I've got a couple photos that were also send with the message posted on mountainbuzz:

Hey Brian, we are sorting things out here in NZ with the accident and I thought I would relay the details to the states. Could you please see that this message gets distributed on Mountainbuzz, rec.boat.paddle, ect before the rumors fly. It is very unfortunate to say there was a drowning on the Upper/Upper Hokitika River yesterday on the South Island of New Zealand. Robin Dodd, U.S. doctor/paddler, was trapped in a sieve several feet underwater and was unable to free himself.

An experienced group consisting of Arnd Schaeftlein, Mark Lyle, Dave Persolja, Tomas Rundgren, Gustav Lindstrom, Jim Hiese, Robin and myself where pushing for the second decent of the top section of the Hokitika. We helicoptered in for the two day mission with what we considered fair to low water conditions. The run was full of sieves, very apparent with the low water. About half way into the first day of the trip we stopped to scout this rapid. It was one of the smaller less concerning rapids of the day, and we reckoned there were no problems. Arnd went through first without much difficult, with Gustav entering second rolling midway through. Robin entered third and was slowed down and thrown off slightly by a small hole midway. He then went over a 4 ft drop with a strong pillow and fold created by a rock just downstream. He subbed out in the seam similar to Arnd and Gustav but pinned against the rock just underwater. His paddle was immediately released and it looked as though he made a quick attempt at exiting his boat.

Within seconds Robin and his boat where underwater and out of site. In less than a minute, 6 of us where able to get within 6 feet of where we last saw Robin but were unable to either see or help him. Arnd, Dave, and Tomas all made a very bold jump into a tiny eddy above the sieve. Arnd was then lowered down in front of the rock by his feet for several attempts at reaching Robin underwater. Unfortunately the current was to strong and Robin was out of reach. We later tried snagging him and his boat with ropes and a Z-drag but nothing seemed to work. After over an hour of rescue effort we decided to continue through the rest of the canyon to the hut where we were to spend the night. From there we were able to radio the helicopter pilot and let him know what had happened. The next day a team of search and rescue flew to assist in extraction. At the present time all recovery attempts have been unsuccessful.

Chris Emerick chrisem@ibm.

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