Accident Database

Report ID# 991

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • Near Drowning
  • Inexperience

Accident Description

Ohio Firemen Bring ‘em Back Alive:

On June 1, 1981, a group of four people, inspired by a rafting trip taken in West Virginia the previous spring, launched a pair of small vinyl rafts into the Great Miami River . The air was warm, but the water was high as a result of recent rains. The group, which was wearing life jackets, proceeded without incident until they went over the first major dam in Dayton, OH . They knew the dam was there, but as they put it “we’d been whitewater rafting and it didn’t look bad”. They soon found that appearances can be deceiving, as all of them became caught in hydraulic below.

This incident had all the makings of a real tragedy. But fortunately, this came under the jurisdiction of the Dayton Fire Department, an active participant in the State of Ohio ’s innovative river rescue program. Once the men arrived at the scene, two of the victims were retrieved by an inflated fire hose extended into the hydraulic. This technique, developed in Dayton , has been described in previous issues of the RSTF. The other members of the party were plucked out using an aerial ladder extended horizontally. One victim was badly bruised by huge logs which were also trapped by the current, but the others were unharmed.  

Prior to the State of Ohio ’s training program, this incident could have resulted in the deaths of all victims and several firefighters.

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