A fifteen year-old camp counselor drowned while paddling the Nantahala River on July 12th. Joel Hayes was part of a staff trip, running the river in rented boats. According to John Griffin, Mr. Hayes was in a double duck with a friend. At the bottom of “The Ledges” the pair hit a raft that was pinned on a large rock near the right bank and flipped. The rock does not look particularly dangerous, but is badly undercut. Mr. Hayes washed under the raft, then under the rock where he was pinned. The other person in the double duck washed clear of this hazard.
Senior staff from the group began rescue attempts at once, assisted by guides from PRO and NOC. They were able to pull Mr. Hayes out from under the rock using a Z-drag. Unfortunately, he had been under water for about fifteen minutes and efforts to revive him were fruitless. Soon afterwards, outfitters met with power company and forest service officials to examine the site at very low flows. The group pulled a number of tangled logs out from under the rock using a winch. Their consensus is that these logs, which were hidden underwater at release levels, may have caused the accident. A warning sign was placed upstream to warn of the undercut rock below.