Accident Database

Report ID# 8887

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • Does not Apply
  • Solo Paddling

Accident Description

Kayaker rescued from James River by diving crew working nearby

By Margaret Carmel

May 29, 2017

A kayaker was rescued from the James River just below Reusens Dam in Lynchburg on Monday after overturning in the rapids on the south side of the structure.

Although emergency response crews were called to the scene at 3:33 p.m. and arrived only 10 minutes later, Lynchburg Fire Department Battalion Chief Robert Lipscomb said the victim already had been rescued by workers at the dam by the time authorities got on scene.

A small crew from underwater construction company G.O.E. Diving was about to call it quits for the day when they saw the kayaker pinned up against the edge of the structure, holding on to keep from being dragged under the current.

“We lowered one of our commercial harnesses, talked him through how to put it on, and pulled him up,” G.O.E. Diving crewmember Justin Brewster said. “He is very lucky to be alive. I’m amazed that he made it out of there.”

The unidentified kayaker was paddling below the dam when he suddenly overturned, fell out of his kayak and was sucked towards the dam by the current, according to onlooker Mike Marshall, who was fishing on the shore when the incident occurred.

“I saw him playing in the current and it looked fine so I went back to fishing, but when I heard a shout, I looked up and the kayak was there and he wasn’t in it,” Marshall said. “I looked for him and looked for him, but didn’t see him until I realized he was all the way at the dam already.”

The victim sustained no serious injuries, Lipscomb said.

“All the credit goes to the guys working on the dam,” he said. “I would have been a much more difficult rescue for us trying to drive our boats up the strong current towards the dam if they hadn’t been there.”


Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!