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Tow Tether Danger Highlighted by Recent Accident

Posted: 02/25/2019
by Charlie Walbridge

Nancy Kell, a very experienced Mid-States kayaker, died on February 24th after flipping in a Class II rapid on West Virginia's Red Creek. There were a number of strainers in the vicinity above and below the water. One of them snagged her tow tether, pulled her out of her boat, and held her under water. She was with a very experienced crew but they could not reach her quickly enough. Equipment snags are a real risk. In the light of this accident I strongly urge anyone using a cowtail, pigtail, or tow tether to recheck your setup, and to consider whether wearing a tow tether makes sense. Be certain that your tether releases cleanly at both ends. Do not attach the front carabiner to a non-releasable point, like a pocket or strap. Ms. Kell did this, and it may have been a contributing factor. Apparently many current rescue PFD designs to not feature a front release point! Do not attach a tether to the rear of your PFD with a non-locking carabiner, as that may inadvertently clip into a rope. The tether should fit very snugly, without sagging, but as the photo shows Ms. Kell did that, and it did not protect her! The harness release should be quick and foolproof. Practice harness releases under pressure before using it on the river. Finally, remember that any additional strap is a potential snag hazard. Ask yourself if the usefulness of a tow tether is worth the risk, especially on small, strainer infrested creeks. Carry it in a PFD pocket or dry bag if necessary. Click for a link to the report in the AW Accident Database. (Jeff Macklin Photo)

 

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American Whitewater Announces Endowment

Posted: 07/30/2018
by Mark Singleton

American Whitewater is pleased to announce the creation of an endowment to promote safety education and outreach. The endowment will support “promoting  whitewater safety, responsible on-river behavior, safety education and outreach, and maintenance of the American Whitewater Safety Code and Whitewater Accident Database.’ Anyone wishing to add to the fund can simply make a donation to American Whitewater here and include safety education in the comment field of the donation.

Useful Links to Low-Head Dam Safety Issues

Posted: 05/12/2017
by Charlie Walbridge

A discussion of low head dam hydrology, and what features make a dam dangerous, and how to mitigate them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsYgODmmiAM

 

A list of low-head dam related fatalities nationwide:

http://krcproject.groups.et.byu.net/browse.php

 

A list of dam-related fatalities in Iowa going back over 100 years. Iowa has done a remarkable job removing or modifying low head dams.

http://www.iowawhitewater.org/lhd/fatalities.html

 

The original video on dam safety: The Drowning Machine

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3ZRL2d5FtU

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AW Partners with Dam Safety Researcher

Posted: 06/12/2013
by Charlie Walbridge

American Whitewater's Accident Database contains more than 1000 fatal accidents and near misses reported over the last  35 years. We sometimes give qualified water safety researchers access to this material. Our latest research partner is Ed Kern,  a Masters Degree candidate in civil engineering at Brigham Young University in Utah. Click through for more information and a link to his web site.

Life and Death Beyond the Edge

Posted: 01/09/2013
by Adam Herzog

An article by Adam Herzog discusses risk taking, death, and other issues for Class V kayakers. First Published in Site Zed, a web site for thoughfrul essays about paddling sponsored by Immersion Research.

Adding Death into the Equation

Posted: 10/02/2012
by Doug Ammons

Link to Article about Liability & Rescue

Posted: 04/02/2012
by Charlie Walbridge

Dealing with Sudden Death

Posted: 07/14/2009
by Charlie Walbridge

Sudden death is a charged emotional event, often compounded by trauma among those who witness a drowning accident or try to rescue or resuscitate someone. Few people realize how little time you have for a successful drowning rescue. The sad facts are that unless a drowning person is pulled out within 6-10 minutes of going under, their chances are almost zero. Anger or displaced anger towards rescue and recovery efforts are not unusual. Excellent Resources for managing sudden death grief and trauma can be found on the Higgins & Langley website. These pamphlets, created by the Royal Hospital Foundation in Belfast, Northern Island, can be downloaded as needed

 

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The GPS Project: Taking the “Search” out of “Search and Rescue”

Posted: 09/01/2006
by Eric Nies

Over the next decade, AW hopes to serve as the collecting point for GPS data on whitewater rivers for the purpose of aiding rescue professionals. We hope to create a set of GPS data for river runs listed on AW’s website, starting with the coordinates of the put-in, continuing with info on the major rapids and landmarks, and finishing with the numbers for the take-out.

A Primer on Critical Incident Stress

Posted: 02/10/2006

American Whitewater's National Accident Study

Posted: 02/06/2006
by Jennifer Plyler

Jennifer Plyler's National Accident Study was an effort to take a close look at fatal accidents in the paddlesport community using both U.S. Coast Guard and American Whitewater data. It is the most detailed look at accidents involving canoes, kayaks, and inflatables throughout the country.

Table: Whitewater Fatalities 1975-2005

Posted: 02/05/2006
by Charles Walbridge

This has tables showing the number of fatal accidents by year and by state over the past 30 years.

Whitewater is Safer Than You Think

Posted: 02/05/2006
by Laura Whitman

Laura Whitman's article compares the accident rate among kayakers with other common sports and activities.

American Whitewater Safety Archive - 1955-2000

Posted: 09/27/2005
by Dave Steindorf

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Paying for Rescue (SAR) Costs

Posted: 10/08/2003
by Jason Robertson

Boaters want to be responsible, largely self-reliant visitors to America's public lands.  Our community does not desire to create a financial burden on the system as a whole. The issue of how government agencies pay for and execute search and rescue services is a thorny one that cannot be addressed with simplistic responses. In the attached analysis, American Whitewater describes why we believe there are significant legal and discrimination issues preventing the charging of boaters for rescue services, or requirement of medical and/or rescue insurance before being granted a boating permit.

Behold a Pale Horse, An Analysis: Safety concerns can result in lost access

Posted: 07/09/2002
by Jason Robertson

Well-intentioned, albeit misplaced, management decisions to restrict access are often made in order to protect you. These decisions affect the FERC relicensing process, recreational whitewater releases from dams, result in a proliferation of permits, and have led to a loss of access on many rivers. This article relates examples through which access has been limited by river managers' fears for your safety.

Flatwater Study Finds Alcohol Boosts Drowning Risk

Posted: 12/19/2001
by Jason Robertson

CHAPEL HILL - Recreational boat passengers are just as likely as operators to die as a result of drinking alcohol, according to a new study of boating deaths in North Carolina and Maryland. One reason the study revealed was that passengers who have been drinking often topple overboard and drown.

Risk Management in Six Steps

Posted: 01/22/2001
by Jason Robertson

The success of any risk management plan results from the understanding, simplification, and implementation of a program that actually gets used by everyone in the organization. The essential basics are fairly simple. Here is what American Whitewater has found based on examination of dozens of lawsuits against outfitters and the results of conducting hundreds of risk management consultations.

Liability and Recreational Use Statutes

Posted: 12/11/2000
by Jason Robertson

American Whitewater has consolidated the recreational use statutes from all 50 states. Now, for the first time, you can find out what your rights as a landower or recreationist are - no matter where you live in the United States. This page has links that describe how to protect access, and yourself as a landowner or recreationist. It even includes links to the actual laws!