Tow Tether Danger Highlighted by Recent Accident
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)
American Whitewater Announces Endowment
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
A discussion of low head dam hydrology, and what features make a dam dangerous, and how to mitigate them.
A list of low-head dam related fatalities nationwide:
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.
The original video on dam safety: The Drowning Machine
AW Partners with Dam Safety Researcher
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
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
Link to Article about Liability & Rescue
Dealing with Sudden Death
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