Accident Database

Report ID# 94

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  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • High Water

Accident Description

FLUSH DROWNING ON TONTO CREEK

Central Arizona: January 18, 1993

DESCRIPTION: Arizona had a record wet winter in 1993. On January 18, during the second big flood of the season, two paddlers attempted to run Tonto Creek, a stream about an hour an a half northeast of Phoenix. It is normally considered a tight class II-III run, perhaps III+ at a high flow of 2,000 cfs. This day it was running at between 10,000 and 20,000 cfs.

The pair put on at the Rye Creek confluence, a tributary entering above a crux gorge called the Narrows. They were both intermediate boaters, well equipped with PFD's and helmets. But once on Tonto Creek they were swimming within minutes. One of the pair managed to swim to shore. The victim, Wesley Hall, 29, was cartwheeled in a hole and then flushed a long way. The body was recovered three days later over ten miles downstream. The cause of death was drowning.

SOURCE: Tyler Williams; Arizona Republic

ANALYSIS: Very high water can totally change the character of a run, reducing the margin for error. Successful high water runs require expert skills and a bombproof roll. Unfortunately this pair had neither and did not appreciate the danger until it was too late.

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