Accident Database

Report ID# 701

  • Pinned in Boat Against Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

With a record snowpack piled high in the mountains, New England experienced its longest sustained period of high water in many years. On April 20th air temperatures were moderate and Vermont's Middlebury River, a tiny, steep, Class V run, was at an ideal water level. That afternoon Chris Wolski, 23, a strong Class V kayaker, was making his third run of the day with four experienced friends.

According to a brief report posted by Justin Beckwith, a member of his party, the accident happened at "Rebirth", a medium-sized ledge. Wolski, running fourth, disappeared at the lip (as expected) but did not reappear. Although he was under only a few feet of water he was completely hidden. With very little daylight left the group mobilized for a rescue and sent for help. After 20 minutes the force of the river pulled off Wolski's life vest and helmet, suggesting a severe pin.

The group now hypothesizes that Wolski entered the rapid further to the right and with less speed than the others. His bow hit the boof rock, spinning him right into a large corner rock that had collected considerable debris. His bow then folded over a log, breaking his lower legs and holding him in place. The accident occurred in a constricted, sheer walled gorge, overhung in places and covered with snow and ice. There was no way to reach Wolski until the water dropped. His body was recovered weeks later, still trapped in the kayak.


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