Accident Database

Report ID# 912

  • Foot Entrapment
  • Near Drowning
  • Spinal Injury
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

Paddlers made several outstanding rescues this past spring. Veteran river activist Jerry Meral sent us a detailed account of an extraordinary rescue on the Chamberlain Falls run of California's North Fork of the American River. The incident occurred on March  6th. A group was scouting  Bogus Thunder Rapid when they saw a cataraft and a paddleboat run the rapid without scouting, flip, and pin. Greg Judge paddled quickly down and arrived to find a man standing at the top of a rock holding onto a woman's foot. She was pinned head-first against the rock by the force of the water.

Mr. Judge jumped into the river and swam onto the rock. He grabbed her life vest and pulled as hard as he could, but could not move her. Suddenly he lost his balance and fell into the river. As he did, he managed to brace and push on an underwater rock. He give one final pull from a different angle. To everyone's surprise, the woman came free. She was still conscious when Mr. Judge pulled her into a weak eddy. Then. His effort showed a remarkable ability to take quick and decisive action in the wild chaos of a true emergency.

But the situation wasn't resolved yet. The woman, who had been pulled onto a riverside rock, had no feeling below her waist. Several kayakers were sent to get help. The group built a flat spot they with life vests and rocks carefully moved her there. As she became chilled, they built a small fire, cut off her wetsuit, and gave her warm, dry clothing. Several passing kayakers left extra food and clothes. The group was preparing to spend the night when a California Highway Patrol helicopter arrived and picked the woman up. She was admitted to the hospital with three fractured vertebrae, a concussion, and hypothermia. The rescuers then launched their boats and made it to the takeout as darkness fell.

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