On May 4, a group of paddlers arrived at the Tellico River in East Tennessee. It was running at 2000 cfs, too much for an easy run on the middle section. So the group headed upstream to try a Class I-II headwaters section above the North River confluence. Ed Mohn, 57, was making his first run since a rib injury the previous fall. Frank Bargatze, another member of the group, describes what happened next:
"We approached an island that offered a passage to river right and left.. .I worked my way down river left.. ..and eddied out behind a rock where I waited for the others to appear ... I saw Ed bounce over a small, submerged rock, then drop into a sieve formed by the rock and a fallen tree. Ed broached against the tree.. . (he had) a look of panic and was frantically trying to extricate himself.. .I could see Ed struggling to extricate his boat.
The boat popped free and floated downstream ... I could see Ed's blue paddle jacket submerged under water. ..I exited my boat and climbed onto the rock ... I jumped on top of Ed and tried with all my strength to pull him out of his entrapment. Barnett Williams reached the rock as I jumped. I swam into an eddy and climbed onto the fallen tree. Barnett and I tried to secure a rope so we could get to Ed.. . (but) the current was strong and the position of the tree made it impossible .... we both jumped to Ed and pulled without success."
"By now Ed had been in under the water for 15 minutes. We stopped and said a short prayer on the rock. Ed's body had shifted from all the pulling.. .. I swam to shore where people were waiting to help. Barnett stayed on the rock and eventually got a rope around Ed's life vest. He threw the rope to us and we pulled. There was a snap of a branch and Ed's body floated free just as a rescue squad arrived ... CPR was administered." Unfortunately, despite their efforts, Ed Mohn was dead.Here is the account from Frank Bargatze, who was with Ed. This is so sad... Ed was a terrific guy.
The following words are just as the events occurred on May 4, 2002.
Friday afternoon began with Ed and me rendezvousing in Nashville and heading for the river. A stop along the way included a big plate of Mexican and good conversation about our philosophies of life and current events. Ed was at a great spot in his life--challenged at work and a most satisfying family life. Trip continued to the Applegate Motel where we packed it in for the night. Both of us relenting to the rigors of life and a few extra years in age, we decided that comfort for the night was appealing.
May 4, 2002 began as a normal Ed and Frank day -- find food. With our food cravens extinguished, we headed to several outfitters--Roger Scott's, Rock Creek and Extreme Outdoors. After trying to get into several new play boats, we again relented to comfort being our most desired criteria. Around 10:30 AM we headed for the Tellico in anticipation of great water after nearly two days of rain. Arriving we were greeted with a roaring river above 2000 cfs of water rushing down the riverbed. We rendezvoused with Barnett Williams and Elgin Hollings as scheduled at the bridge put in for the middle section of the Tellico. This was Ed's first time back in his boat since last fall after his rib injury on the Ocoee; also, Elgin was attempting her first descent since the tragic loss of her husband, Randy Cook, just two months earlier.
It was determined quickly that the river conditions were not conducive for our preset goals of safety and light paddling to ensure that both Ed and Elgin were ready for the rigors of paddling to come this summer. Ed and I were planning another trip to our favorite destination--the Cache La Poudre River in Colorado during the 4th of July holidays. Barnett Williams suggested that we go towards the upper stretches of the Tellico where the river plateaus for a short distance--class one/two whitewater.
We went 3.2 miles above the put in for the ledges/upper section and just above the North River confluence with the Tellico. We pulled over at a maintained parking area for fishermen and unloaded equipment. Barnett and I ran shuttle, leaving Ed and Elgin in conversation beside the river. Elgin told me later in conversation with Ed that he stated he was very comfortable with the group decision to run this benign section. Returning for shuttle everyone prepared and got into boats to begin. A quick gut check with everyone and we were off down the river.
I checked with Ed after the first rapid to his physical condition. He said that he was a little winded but felt good. We approached an island that offered a passage to river right and left. I had looked at the river left run when running shuttle. River left offered more challenge than the wide river-right route. I worked my way down the river left and eddied below the island, maneuvered down the middle of the rapid and eddied below a river left rock close to the bank with a freshly fallen tree in the water. The tree was mostly submerged towards the top of rock and protruded in open view upon the shore.
Behind the rock I waited for the others to appear. I looked up and saw Ed bounce over a small submerged rock then drop into a small underwater sieve formed by the rock and fallen tree. Ed broached against the tree and then events occurred so quickly that I'm not sure that I can adequately describe actions and emotions. I will try.
Ed had a look of panic and was frantically trying to extricate himself. In a matter of seconds he was pinned upside down in his boat. I summoned for help upstream and was spun around in the eddy, when I turned back into eddy I could see Ed struggling to exit his boat. The boat popped free and floated downstream. I could see Ed's blue paddling jacket submerged under the water.
I immediately exited my boat in the water and climbed onto the rock. It was impossible to reach Ed, so I jumped on top of Ed and tried with all human strength to pull him out of his entrapment. Barnet Williams had gotten to the rock as I was jumping for Ed. After letting go I swam into river right eddy and moved up the shore and climbed onto fallen tree. Barnett and I tried to secure a rope so that we could get to Ed. The current was too strong and the position of rock and tree made it impossible to quickly get to Ed. Both of us again jumped to Ed and pulled without success.
By now he had been under the water for 15 minutes. We stopped and said a prayer on the rock. Ed's body had shifted from the pulling and Barnett was able to grab Ed's rescue rope that was secured around his waist. We pulled but to no avail. I swam to shore on river right where Elgin and bystanders wanting to help had gathered. Barnett stayed on rock and eventually got a rope around Ed's life vest. He threw ropes to us and we pulled. Just as the rescue squad arrived there was a snap of a branch I assume and Ed's body floated free. He was immediately taken into the ambulance where CPR was administered.
We gathered equipment, gave reports to the Forest Service and went to Sweetwater Medical Center where Ed was pronounced dead. We called Jill and stayed with Ed until all arrangements had been made. They allowed me to see Ed and say a few words to him. I told him he would be missed, loved and not forgotten. He is at peace and on that endless class 4 rapid. On the way home there seemed to be a big swirling hole in the clouds, I looked at Elgin and told her that is where Ed entered heaven. http://boatertalk.com/forum/BoaterTalk/173328