OPEN CANOEIST TRAPPED IN SINKING CANOE
Norman's Kill River near Guilderland, NY: March 17, 1990
Volume: High Classification: II
DESCRIPTION: The Norman's Kill is a local class II run, which on that day was badly swollen due to recent rains and snowmelt. The victim, Dr. George Lesher, 64, was a scientist who had done considerable research on heart drugs. He was a trained, but still inexperienced paddler, running tandem in an inexpensive touring canoe with low-hung plastic molded seats with an inner tube for center flotation. The boat apparently tipped and swamped in fast-moving flat water. His partner bailed out, but Lesher stayed with the canoe. At this point the inner tube popped free, and Lesher found that he could not extricate his foot. He was washed into a strainer, where his friends tried so hard to rescue him that they stripped some of his clothing from his body. The rescue was made by Officers Mark Jones and Dan McNalley, experienced paddlers and police paramedics. With shore support from local firefighters they were able to release the victim. CPR was begun at once, and Dr. Lesher was flown to Albany Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
SOURCE: Newspaper clippings, Albany paper
ANALYSIS: The ability to quickly exit a craft is a must in fast-moving water. Low-hung seats on touring canoes can be a hazard, and individuals must be prepared to modify them for swiftwater use. I am unsure if the victim was wearing boots or other bulky footwear, but this could have contributed to the accident. Most serious whitewater paddlers are using pedestals to facilitate their escape