Accident Database

Report ID# 677

  • Equipment Trap
  • Does not Apply
  • Inadequate Equipment
  • Solo Paddling

Accident Description

On this same day, August 15th, Doug Wivell, 25, a local wrestling coach and middle school teacher, took his brand-new kayak to a tidal section of the Rappahanock River near Tappahannock, Virginia. Witnesses saw him working near shore, making several successful rolls. Later they found him floating upside down in four feet of water. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that his feet became caught in the boat, preventing a successful wet exit.

While not strictly speaking a whitewater accident, this tragedy is of interest to most river kayakers. Most of us at some time or another, practice rolls in local flatwater. Novices and those testing new equipment should not do this alone. Someone should be standing in the water nearby, ready to assist. A wet exit should always be done before attempting a roll with a new boat or sprayskirt.

Safety Chair's Note: I once knew of a nervous paddler who similarly got caught and paniced, resulting in over 4 hours stuck in a kayak in a pond behind the house until a spouse came home from work. Luckily this paddler was able to reach up to the air and get a breath periodically.


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