Accident Database

Report ID# 981

  • Equipment Trap
  • Near Drowning
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

AW Journal Article Nov/Dec 1976: Trapped at Gate 13 by OK Goodwin

C-2 racer was unable tobail out after capsizing; foot caught on the thwart. Boat pinned on a rock near shore where he was rescued by a spectator (Davey Hearn).

So, here is the story as I remember it: I was watching the slalom race, at the Savage River, between runs, about 3/4 of the way down the course. I saw C2M Mikki Piras & George Lhota capsize upstream in the very busy section of the course, and Mikki exited the boat, while George remained in the boat and rolled up. George was in the bow, and the Czech C2 was a translucent un-pigmented racing layup. George used rigid non-adjustable sheet metal “machines” in lieu of knee straps. The boat took on water, and was low volume in the bow, making it a challenge to control, along with the fact that paddling even a dry end hole boat from the bow is nearly impossible. So George’s end of the boat was sinking, and he was trying to get to shore. The combination of those machines and the thwart seat made it hard to get out of the boat. Almost to shore, George in the boat lodged on the rock in the photo, near river left, with a narrow but powerful flume of current separating it from the left bank. The deck was against the rock, and George was shallowly under water, and struggling to breathe. I looked at the situation for a brief time, and mentally calculated that I could jump across the channel of rushing water into the eddy behind the rock to help George. Then I did it, and it worked well enough that I was not whisked downstream, but was able to stand in the eddy and assist George by holding him up so he could breathe. But I couldn’t do much more than that, since I needed both hands and arms to do it. At least two throw ropes were deployed towards George, but he did not really have the means to grab a rope, as he was plenty busy trying to breathe. Unfortunately, one of those ropes ended up looped around George’s neck, so putting any tension on it was contra-indicated! I was wearing a royal blue with yellow stripes Adidas tracksuit jacket and pants, with an elastic waist, over a purple and pink patterned Speedo, the latter of which I normally wore in the boat while paddling in those days. No life jacket, no helmet, but probably jelly plastic sandals on my feet. If you look closely at the photo, you can see that those Adidas pants were not really staying up all that well with their waterlogged weight pulling them down. So it probably lasted five or ten minutes, and I was able to hold him up to breathe, during which time some sort of tension was able to be applied with a rope that was not around George’s neck, he in the boat was pulled to shore, and he was then able to exit the boat upright on shore. O. K. Goodwin, probably in charge of safety at the race, along with being the ACA safety chair at the time for Slalom and Wildwater, was upset at George for racing in an unsafe to exit boat. I don’t remember how I got back to shore.
A perusal of my first of many training logs finds that this was on Sunday, September 5th, 1976, at the 3rd and final race of the North American Cup. Jonquiere, Quebec, and Madawaska River were the venues for races 1 & 2.

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