Accident Database

Report ID# 90877

  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Hypothermia
  • Cold Water
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

Rescue on the Shenandoah by Dan Loeb
On April 16th at around 5:30 pm, Cory Praybe and myself were on our second lap going down the Shenandoah river entering Bull Falls. Shortly after running the chute of Bull Falls proper we entered into what's known as Bulls Tail where we noticed people flagging us down for help on a little sliver of island (river right). 
Cory was the first to reach them and assess the situation, we made sure everyone in the party was accounted for and safe. The stranded party ended up being a male and female with a small child, they were soaked and cold and the air temperatures were roughly mid 40's. All three were pretty terrified of what they just went through. No PFD, helmets, or other safety devices. We located their raft in an eddie adjacent to the small island the were stranded on. 
Cory was able to paddle to the raft where I was able to throw him a rope. After securing the rope to the raft we were able to pull it to where the stranded couple was. We had the couple and child load into the raft and we pushed/steered them the calmest route possible which was down to the river right just past Bull Falls. (Neither of us had cellphone service at this time so we decided this would be the most safe course of action.) After getting them to mainland river right, I began to start fire to try to keep them warm while Cory hiked out to find the nearest road. 
After Cory returned saying he could find no way out we decided it would be too risky for them to get back in the raft to attempt to push them to a more accessible river left location, we were able to call 911 from Cory's cellphone. After explaining to dispatch our location, they set some responders on foot to try to find us. We both had rescue whistles on our PFDs which we were able to use until eventually a responder spotted us. 
The responder was on river left on the other side of the river and was attempting to verbally communicate with us, but due to the distance we couldn't hear what she was saying. At this time Cory ferried over to river left to make contact. Shortly after they were able to confirm our location to the Search and Rescue team which quickly arrived with jet ski's  and an inflatable raft with an outboard motor. 
Cory and I then finished our paddle down to Potomac Wayside. Key factors in this situation were lack of knowledge, lack of proper PPE, and poor judgment. After asking what they were doing with a child and no proper gear it was clear it was the man's decision to "go fishing" and he "didn't think there were any rapids until further down river past the MD 340 bridge." Apparently their plan was to go down some "class 2 rapids" until wayside, where the mans mother was to pick them up. From start to finish, total rescue was approximately 2 hours. 

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