Chau-Ram Park is a beautiful county-owned facility near Westminster, SC. There are some nice class II-III rapids on a section of the Chauga River that flows through it. According to the Seneca, SC Daily Sentinel Aaron Roche, 30, had run this section with friends several times during the season. On June 29th he arrived after a hard day of construction work to paddle this stretch with some friends. Right above “Can Opener” he jumped out of his raft to recover a tube perched on a mid-stream rock. His feet got caught in a pothole and the current quickly pushed his body under.
Park rangers, who had successfully rescued a 13 year old Florida boy from the same site a few hours earlier, tried to help but were not successful. Swiftwater Rescue teams recovered the body 16 hours later. The Chauga’s geology clearly favors foot entrapment and rescuing people caught this way is not easy. A Google search revealed several similar deaths and a number of near misses at Chau Ram Park over the past few years, but these involved swimmers and waders rather than paddlers. The scenario is always the same: an attempt to stand in fast-moving water is followed by a foot or leg getting stock in a pothole or in a crack. This is one accident that’s easier to prevent than rectify, and I strongly recommend using a well-designed poster to publicize this danger to park visitors.