Accident Database

Report ID# 78

  • Impact/Trauma
  • Head Injury / Concussion
  • Solo Paddling

Accident Description


Near Black Diamond, Northeastern Washington State

Date: November 28, 1990

River level 7500 cfs; Difficulty IV-V

DESCRIPTION: The Green River Gorge is a popular run for Seattle area paddlers. At 7500 cfs the area around "the nozzle" is very fast and powerful, approaching class V difficulty because of the lack of rescue spots. There is a river wide, sneakable hole at the Nozzle and this is probably where Bezuk met his demise.

Bezuk, 52, was a Hungarian refugee who escaped his native country driving a captured Russian tank. He worked as a bridge tender in the Seattle area, and because of his work schedule he seldom had weekends off and usually paddled alone. He has paddled rivers all over the world, including a 3500 mile solo descent of the Amazon in 1970. He was a strong, accomplished paddler who had run the river many times, as well as a skydiver, rock climber, and pilot. Local boaters felt that he was as mentally and physically tough as any boater in the area, and the only one to run class V rivers solo on a regular basis. They also said that he was a difficult man, with a strong personality, and few went out of their way to boat with him.

No one knows what happened on that day. Park officials at Palmer-Kanasket State Park initiated a search with local boaters after noticing that his car had been in the parking lot too long. He was discovered by paddlers in an eddy between the Nozzle and the takeout at Franklin Bridge. Rangers reported a massive injury to the head around the left eye. Given Bezuk's background, I suspect that this injury, following a flip, may have precipitated the accident.

SOURCES: Lee Moyer, Don Sessions, Washington Canoe Club; The Seattle "Times"

ANALYSIS: Solo boating has well-documented risks, not the least of which being that there is no one to help you if you get into trouble. Sometimes, however, there is nothing that others can do. No one will ever know if another paddler might have made a difference, but it is clear that Bezuk understood the risks of paddling alone and was fully qualified to deal with them. While this behavior cannot be recommended, neither, in some circles, is whitewater paddling. Each of us should have the freedom to decide which risks we will accept and which we will avoid. Bezuk clearly was a man who valued this freedom, and lived to challenge himself. (CW)

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