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Old 04-24-2006   #11
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 26
Wow, what a harrowing experience. Thanks for taking the time to write it up and summarize your learnings.

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Old 04-24-2006   #12
davidcrockett's Avatar
Denver Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 35
You have convinced me to replace my lost river knife. Thanks for posting a good write up. I am glad you made it out okay.

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Old 04-24-2006   #13
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Thought-criminal, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 989
Roy, you looked all shook up when you crawled ashore...I was the guy standing there wondering what to do about your boat on the shoal in the middle of the river. I would've helped you fish it out, but our boats were way downstream (I looked upstream from an eddy and saw an orange hull, got out and ran up the bank to check it out) and my buddy had to get to work. Anyway, we looked as best we could for your paddle on the way down but didn't see anything. Good luck finding it. Glad your okay.
I hope in the future Americans are thought of as a warlike, vicious people, because I bet a lot of high schools would pick "Americans" as their mascot. -Jack Handy
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Old 04-24-2006   #14
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Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 682
BSOE: No worries on the boat. It was safely and easily retrievable at that point. Thx for looking out for the paddle!
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Old 04-24-2006   #15
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 831
When it comes down to it, Roy had to save himself. If he hadn't cut through that skirt he probably would have tired and drowned before Jeff and I could have touched him. The water was shooting off of his body and he was completely under water several times. I have never felt such an awful feeling of dread as I did while Jeff and I watched Roy fight for his life.

Please, everybody out there: never paddle without a knife, keep physically fit in case you need some super strength/endurance, and remember that even a non-scary rapid can kill you.

I highly recommend that Bear Claw design with the sure-grip trigger hole for your pointer finger. If Roy had dropped his knife he probably would have died. That water was ice-cold and jetting on him full blast so I think a regular knife would have been hard to hold onto.

As for what I would do differently next time? I think we did the right thing by having 1 guy with a rope get close and maintain communication with Roy and get ready to throw the rope if Roy decided to give up. Roy had a rescue vest so I would want to throw him a rope with a beaner on the end for him to clip to. With a team of 3: 1 victim and 2 rescuers, there wasn't a easy way to set up a fixed rope across the river without keeping someone ready with the throw bag for Roy so I think I would have liked to have a team of 4. I always thought 3 felt like a safe number but 4 is a lot better because that way you have 2 people free to do whatever.

Jeff was on the right bank on a cliff straight across from Roy with the throw bag and I was on the wrong side of the rock (left bank) so I spent about a minute trying to figure out how to get on that rock while Jeff talked to Roy. It was a big rock and way too tall and vertical on the backside to eddy behind it and crawl up. Roy was snagged on the front right hand side so you couldn't reach him from the back. The front of the rock was tall, slick, undercut, and had water rushing FAST on both sides. There was no way to swim up to it and jump on. I ended up swimming to the bottom of the cliff on the right hand side but Roy was out when I got there. It is a good thing because I would not been able to do much from there. The only thing I could think of was to beaner myself to Jeff's rope and make a grab for Roy but that would have had a 99% chance of failure and Roy needed to concentrate on cutting his skirt instead of having people trying to jump on him. I guess if I had to do it over I would have concentrated on getting a fixed line across the creek while Jeff held the bag for Roy. The thought crossed my mind but I thought it would take so long that Roy would be dead I swam closer to try to make a desperate grab... but next time I would just start setting up a fixed line even if it looked hopeless.
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Old 04-24-2006   #16
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 207
Good point Ture. It's a good idea not to wait until paddling season to get in shape. You'll appreciate some extra strength when the shit hits the fan. I don't think a lot of people would have been able to hang in there 10 minutes or whatever the time was.
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Old 04-24-2006   #17
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 178
Man.. Knife sales in the area are going to jump this week! You retailers better stock up!!
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Old 04-24-2006   #18
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 35
Awesome Thanks

Great job keeping your head and cutting yourself free. I hope that I would have been in good enough shape and had the confidence to cut myself free. I have a razor sharp knife with sheath permanently attached to each of my 2 PFD's. I don't use mine to slice up river lunch either and I know how to put a serious edge on a knife. I have seen people carry knives that are so dull they would not have been able to cut that skirt.

Sometimes I have felt like a dork walking around with my knife even in playspots but not anymore...thanks for telling the knives will stay with me no matter where I'm paddling....

Glad you got out OK

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Old 04-24-2006   #19
Highlands Ranch, CO Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 482

1st off I am glad to hear you are ok and made it out. Super scary...

You make some excellent points as to carry the right gear and be ready to use it.

The couple times I have heard of people needing their knives it was in a super scary need it right now situation. So please people always have a knive and in a place you can grab it in any position with either hand.

Something else to think about is what you are wearing on your person. This was taught to me years ago and I really haven't heard people talk that much about it. But this is a great example, where Roy was entrapped on his skirt which all kayakers are going to be wearing but sometimes I see people wearing extra cordage or webbing on themselves. Waist worn throwbags are generally not an issue since they have a quick release to get out of in this exact situation. But the extra stuff even those tag lines to drag kayaks or paddles to shore that are dangling or I have even seen people wear camelbaks over the top of their PFD. All of those things are potential entrapments.

Ture, Nice work on looking out for your buddy.

I wasn't their and you where so I definitely do not want to armchair quarterback I would just like to throw out a couple things that come to mind from reading this, the only reason I am writing this is that hopefully someone reads this and maybe it helps someone out someday. I do not in any way want to give the impression that you did not do the right thing or I that I am trying to be a know it all.

The last thing you said in your post was that maybe you should have worked a little more on a fixed line across.

As I was reading this that was the first thing that came to mind is that someone should get a line across and in front of Roy so he could get it under his arms and that would support his body. That in turn would keep his head above the the water and also help him support himself so he could concentrate on cutting that skirt instead of holding himself up.

Every situation is different and how the cliffs are down there this might not have been possible but it sounds like you had someone on the other side of the river to help you out. Not wanting to give up that person setting throwbag rescue downstream to set up the line across the river makes some sense but Roy was stuck and not going anywhere except under water so I think getting a rope across to keep him breathing might have been a better option. Plus if some extra people showed up you would have the fixed line across already to perform a live bait rescue.

Something else that was mentioned in this post was group size that is an excellent point as well. When paddling harder rivers I think the ideal group size is 4, that way if 1 person is in trouble you have 3 other people to perform the rescue. After that if that person is injured and needs evac you have 1 person to stay with the victim and 2 people to go get help, that way you are not sending 1 person paddling out in class 4-5 water alone.

Just one more little thing to think about is, if you are down stream and you do see a kayak float down as a paddler you should feel compelled to help and go upstream till you see the swimmer is ok and they give you the thumbs up.

Sorry for rambling but I think this the way we all learn. It is early season folks lets be safe and think safety as the creeks are coming up.

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Old 04-24-2006   #20
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The Ranch, Colorado
Paddling Since: 04
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 1,134
I learned a lot from this thread, so thank you everyone for posting.

I'm glad you're okay and I'm very impressed with your fitness and level-headedness.

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