Accident Database

Report ID# 833

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • Does not Apply
  • Inexperience

Accident Description

On July 8th two canoes carrying four young women capsized at the base of a 5’ high dam on the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River in Eastern Illinois. According to Eric Sprenne, an AW regional coordinator, the dam is a known killer, and there are strong warnings about it in the guidebook “Paddling Illinois.” Fortunately, two of the four girls were able to grab an inner tube that was floating in the backwash. The Danville, IL Commercial News noted that the recirculation was so powerful that the two teens were literally bouncing off the face of the dam. The pair also tried to support Sandra Barnett, 24, but she slipped out of her life vest and was pulled under water.

A 16 year-old girl made it ashore and went for help. An hour later Danville firefighters threw a rope to the two girls. They had to time the extrication to avoid a collision with a large log that was loose in the backwash; even then it took a number of strong men to pull the girls free.

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