Accident Database

Report ID# 775

  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • Inadequate Equipment
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

Mike McDonnell, the whitewater paddling coordinator for the St. Lawrence University Outdoor Program in upstate New York, reported a drowning on the Oswegatchie River. It happened on March 15th below Gouverneur. Three young men flipped a canoe while attempting to run this Class I-II stretch. Water levels were high, but well below flood stage. The boat was loaded at near to capacity, making it less stable. No one was wearing a life vest or cold water protection when they hit the icy water. One man made it ashore and called 911. Another was stranded on a small island. The third person, Robert Versailles, 19, disappeared. After several unsuccessful attempts to rescue the man on the island with a rowboat, rescue squads called in a military helicopter! The two survivors were treated for hypothermia at a local hospital and released. Dive rescue teams, working from a motorized inflatable, found the body early the following morning.

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