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Upper Blackwater Entrapment: October 2, 2010

Posted: 04/06/2011
by Charlie Walbridge

Photo shows Flatliner Falls, the site of Carl Schneider's drowning on the Upper Blackwater River in West Virginia on October 2, 2010.This classic Class V run was running at 400 cfs, a high but commonly run level, when a group of 7 expert paddlers put in below the falls. Here Mr. Schneider, 35, missed a boof and washed over a 6’ ledge sideways. His bow hit rocks at the bottom, and the left side of his boat washed against an underwater rock shelf protruding from the ledge (foreground). It was an angled vertical pinning, with the current forcing him against his back deck. There was no air pocket. This photo was taken by J.B. Sea at 200 cfs, less than half that flow. At 400 cfs the rock shelf is under water.

His friends moved in quickly, setting up on both sides of the drop. A line was set across the river and one of the group used it to wade out to the pin spot. With a bit of work he was able to get behind the ledge and out of the current.  He grabbed Mr. Schneider’s arm and tried to pull him free, without success. Other paddlers got out there, and someone had a line with a carabiner attached. The line was clipped to the stern, which was lifted up and over the rock so the boat could wash free.  Afterwards, they released the spray skirt and pulled Mr. Schneider out of the kayak. Although he had only been under water for 5-6 minutes, CPR was unsuccessful. A local rescue squad arrived and carried him back to civilization.

Charles Walbridge
Bruceton Mills, WV