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New Graphics Summarize 20 Years of Accident Data

Posted: 01/01/2019
by Charlie Walbridge

 

Charlie Duffy has created a series of graphs summarizing the contents of the Accident Database over the last 20 years. Along the way, he searched our files for any errors and duplicates and corrected them. Click through to scroll through these fascinating  charts or to download them for your use.

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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.

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Ohiopyle State Park Updates River Regulations

Posted: 03/30/2018
by Charlie Walbridge

This past fall American Whitewater met with Ohiopyle State Park managers to discuss possible updates to their whitewater paddling regulations. The first topic was to change the rules governing raft sizes at different water levels to recognize the capabilities of self-bailing rafts. Shorter self-bailing boats will now be allowed to run the river at high water. Some small changes to the regulations will make Ohiopyle Falls more accessible to paddlers. A change in the way the gauge is interpreted should make the falls "legal" on more days. Although whitewater paddlers are only one part of the vast public that visits the park, every effort was made to accommodate them while avoiding user conflicts and safety hazards. Special thanks goes to Ken Bisbee, Ohiopyle State Park Operations Manager and John Hallas, a former Ohiopyle State Park Operations Manager who is now Director of State Parks. Click here to read the updated Ohiopyle River Regulations:

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American Whitewater Announces Safety Database Upgrade

Posted: 04/01/2017
by Charlie Walbridge

After over a year's work American Whitewater has released an upgraded version of their Whitewater Accident Database. It's the largest collection of its kind in the world, with over 1600 fatalities and close calls dating back to 1972. Each report has been checked for accuracy and AW Webmaster Ryan Groth greatly improved the search capacity. You can now locate accidents by a dozen different categories and characteristics. Here's how this project came about, how it evolved, why American Whitewater reports accidents and how you can help us keep this project going in the coming years.

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Kayaker Pinned on White Salmon Strainer: April 12, 2015

Posted: 04/21/2015
by Charlie Walbridge

On April 12, 2015 a Canadian paddler visiting the US was killed on the Farmlands section of Washington's White Salmon River. Denis Brown, 63, flipped in "triple Drop" rapid, did not roll, and washed iunto a strainer on the river right bank. Mr. Brown came our of his kayak and pinned against the strainer, and his boat washed down and lodged against him. There is an excellent report of this and the vigorous rescue attempt available now in the AW Accident Database.

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Kayaker Killed Running the Potomac's Great Falls: July 11, 2013

Posted: 10/15/2013
by Charlie and Sandy Walbridge

Shannon Christy, a charismatic young paddler, was killed in Great Falls of the Potomac River on July 11th, 2013. After bailing out below Grace Under Pressure, one of the center chutes, she washed over the notorious "Middle Finger" drop into the Subway, a deadly sieve. There is a full write-up of this fatality in the AW Accident Database. The photo shows Steve Fisher and Jason Beakes during the difficult body recovery.

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Analysis of a Vertical Pin Fatality

Posted: 10/15/2013
by Charlie Walbridge

On March 9, 2013 Dr. Jim McComb died after his kayak pinned vertically in a small ledge on Arizona's East Verde River. His friend Dr. Bill Langhoffer recently forwarded a detailed description of the pin along with several photos which may be useful to any paddler running difficult whitewater. Photo Caption:  This view is from the top of the drop as we found the boat weeks later once the water had receded from 500 to 20 cfs, and had transformed from muddy to clear water. The piton rock can be seen (#2).  This small rock at the base of the fall is what stopped his boat. The left slant in the rock at the base of the fall can be noticed (#4), with the boat still leaning in that direction. Once his boat sunk in the water it hit that slant and rotated the boat to the left.Jim was now pinned in the slot between the 2 rocks (Red/White and Black) on the river left (#5).The approximate water line at 500 cfs was drawn into the photo, water line.

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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.

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Detailed Report on 12/9/2012 Clear Creek Accident

Posted: 04/16/2013
by Charlie Walbridge

American Whitewater just received an report on the death of Selby Arno on California's Clear Creek last December. It is very complete and well written; you can read the entire report by clicking on the link below:

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Outstanding Rescue on the Upper Nantahala: Sept 30, 2012

Posted: 03/28/2013
by Charlie Walbridge

A quick-thinking NOC bus driver saved a life during a scheduled September water release on North Carolina’s fast-moving Upper Nantahala River. A kayaker who pulled over above a downed tree didn’t realize that the current there was still powerful enough to cause trouble. Her boat was pushed into and under the log where both disappeared. Fortunately Rob Kelly, a whitewater guide, was driving  shuttle bus and witnessed the entrapment. He pulled his bus over and started wading across the river. The rescue was caught by photographer Rick Thompson. To read Mr. Kelly's account, click the link below:

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Little River Foot Entrapment: March 11, 2013

Posted: 03/28/2013
by Charlie Walbridge

The Little River near Townsend, Tennessee is one of the nicest class III-IV roadside runs in Smokey Mountain National Park. On March 11th an open canoeist flipped in the first drop of "the Meanies" just above The Sinks and washed downstream over a 6' ledge. He was swimming on his back, feet first, lined up with the current when he washed into the backwash and did not reappear. The water "planted" him vertically in rocks below the drop, catching his foot. Many paddlers who were on the river that day participated in the rescue, eventially using a complex live bait system to pull the man free. Click through for a detailed account of what happened.

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Remembering O. K. Goodwin, Long-Time AW Safety Chair

Posted: 03/16/2012
by Charlie Walbridge

American Whitewater recently learned that O.K. Goodwin, founder of The Coastal Canoeists (1965) and long-time AW safety chair (1970 to 1987), died on December 3, 2011. He was 90 years old. A lifelong resident of Newport News, VA, he was a designer of merchant ships (and the occasional canoe) for almost four decades. He was an instructor, Scout leader, and a whitewater competitor in C-1 and in C-2 with his wife, Glenna. They were married for 64 years and their daughter Cyndi was a top-ranked K-1W racer. He was well known on the race circuit, always there with his coiled rope at the toughest part of the course. As Safety Chair he discussed the inevitable conflicts between river-savvy paddlers and the wider, less knowledgeable society in which we all live. He pioneered outreach to state and local government and encouraged others to do the same. His work laid important foundation for today's American Whitewater. (Drawing by Les Fry in CoastalCaNews)

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Pillow Rock Pinning: October 10, 2010

Posted: 04/06/2011
by Charlie Walbridge

Pillow Rock Rapid on West Virginia’s Upper Gauley has been thought of as big, powerful, but relatively hazard free. That changed on October 10th when veteran paddler Mark Hanna died after pinning on a previously unknown undercut rock.His friends agree on these facts: At Pillow rock, running fourth in a group of 9, he flipped on the big pressure wave that gives the rapid its name. He attempted 3-5 rolls as he washed downstream. As he did this, he was pushed to the right just downstream of Volkswagen Rock (A,B). He came out of his kayak just above a giant rock that guards the bottom of the right-side eddy. As he bailed out, his face appeared for an instant before he was pushed under the right corner of the rock (C).

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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. Mr. Schneider 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.

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North Fork Feather Drowning: August 29, 2010

Posted: 04/06/2011
by Charlie Walbridge

          On August 29th  Susan Marie Kaiser paddled the “Lowbin” section of the North Fork of the Feather in an inflatable kayak. According to postings in Boof.com, Ms. Kaiser, a former river guide, flipped her IK on a large breaking wave near the bottom in a long Class IV rapid below the first (Bucks Creek) power house. The current pushed her to the left where she pinned in a slot between a large boulder and a smaller submerged boulder to its left. One of the paddlers in her group managed to swim into the small pocket eddy behind the boulder and tried to pull her out, but she was wedged in too tightly.  The photo by Jeff Sailus shows a kayak pinned in the same spot.

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Frog Rock Drowning, Arkansas River: July 11, 2010

Posted: 04/06/2011
by Charlie Walbridge

Frog Rock Rapid on Colorado’s Arkansas River is a deceptively dangerous place. At high flows it’s a straightforward Class III; at lower levels much of the water runs under a massive rock (Center). It has been the scene of at least six deaths in the last two decades; the lower the water, the worse it gets. Signs warn boaters to stay left or portage, but for those used to higher levels, its hard to shift gears. On July 11th  a group of river guides high-sided a raft here. One of them, Kimberly Appelson, 28, fell out of the raft and washed under the rock. Rescue was impossible, and it took several months to recover her body .

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Avoiding Collisions on the Gauley River

Posted: 09/21/2010
by Charlie Walbridge

River outfitters and American Whitewater joined together decades ago to protect the Gauley River from hydro development. The success of these business enterprises were one of the key reasons that the river was protected as a National Recreation Area. But with success has come new challenges. Professional guides find the number of kayakers on the Upper Gauley overwhelming at times and kayakers also find the number of rafts intimidating.  Regardless of any “right of way”, it’s everyone’s job to avoid crashes! Here’s what you can do to avoid collisions with commercial rafts. 

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Guided Rafting Accident Statistics

Posted: 09/04/2007
by David Brown

A CNN story on whitewater rafting deaths published in September 2006 omits the fact that most of the fatalities cited by the article did not occur on commercial raft trips, said David Brown, Executive Director of America Outdoors (AO).  America Outdoors is a national association of outfitters, which includes many whitewater rafting companies.  The story cites 50 whitewater deaths and infers that they were on commercial rafting trips due to lax state regulation.  Brown says his data shows 10 fatalities on guided, commercial raft trips in 2006.  None of the deaths on commercial trips were the result of a customer not wearing a life jacket.  Of the eight rafting deaths cited in Oregon by CNN, none were on a commercially guided trip.