Accident Database

Report ID# 86

  • Pinned in Boat Against Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • Failed Rescue
  • High Water

Accident Description


Lower section near Fort Payne AL: January 15, 1992

Gradient 32 fpm; Gauge 1.2 & Rising; Classification III-IV

DESCRIPTION: The Little River Canyon is a classic Southeast whitewater run. There is a class V section upstream, and a less difficult run accessible by hiking down an chairlift cut, both in a spectacular, rugged canyon. On February 15 the Georgia State University Recreation Department was leading a large 19-boat trip down the lower section. The level was higher than the 1.2 gauge level would indicate, making the class III-IV drops somewhat pushy.

The group had paddled through all the big drops when they entered a unremarkable Class III rapid. The river turned left, pooled, then ran towards a cliff wall. There was a large rock on the right bank, with 3 feet separating the rock and the cliff. There was a log in the chute. Rick McGee had been having a bad day up until then, with several previous swims. He flipped in the pool, washed into the blocked chute, then, still in his boat, wrapped around the log. Although he was alive for a while, the spot is quite inaccessible and the group could not reach him. They finished the run and contacted authorities, and rescue squads later recovered the body.

SOURCE: Jim Hudson

ANALYSIS: I wasn't there, but it sounds to me as if the victim must have spent a good bit of time floating upside down, trying for a roll. A fast recovery or wet exit might have saved his life. Sometimes when a person is having a bad day you can have someone paddle nearby, offering advice, encouragement, and backup. Whether this would have made a difference is unknown.

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