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Old 08-30-2010   #11
Dillon, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 22
Those guys gave me a ride in. I recall, one was a guide on the Gauley. Was it the younger guy or the older one who had the bad swim? Any news on his condition? Myself and a couple others pulled their shredder out below sissors.

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Old 08-30-2010   #12
V for Victory
9300ft, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 329
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rockinRio! You ROCK!

Originally Posted by hojo View Post
First, your rescue, all of you, was top notch. My rant above should have included that acknowledgement.

The pros of clipping in, as I see them:
1) You have more control over your own kayak
2) You can still release in the event of getting into a bad situation
3) You may be able to buy more time while other boaters/shore safety can respond.

The cons:
1) You may not be able to keep their head out of the water. My Green Jacket has no attachment point other than a shoulder strap which will pitch the swimmer.
2) If you have to release then your tether becomes a both an entanglement and pin hazard albeit it a small one.
3) The swimmer has no way of getting out of the tow situation without you releasing. I see this as an issue if the swimmer is conscious but having to still fight to maintain a heads up position and panicking as a result.
4) In a boat like the Green Boat, the swimmer may be fixed on one side of the boat (say the left) since the stern is so long. If you have to paddle to river left that could force the swimmer under your boat since they're upstream.

I never practiced clipping into a swimmer with a tow tether nor was it discussed in my SWR class. I've heard of people letting a swimmer hold onto one but that presumes the swimmer is conscious and able to assist in the rescue. As in other rescue techniques, it's something that would need to be practiced by paddlers and swimmers in turn to understand how to use it.
That's a pretty good list... I think I want to try some practice with that this weekend!

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Old 08-30-2010   #13
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 41
hey all,

i was going to post this and thought- this seems like a good place.

I want to give a huge shout out to everyone who steps up in these situations. And to all those who take on and protect less experienced boaters through stuff like Gore. I would have been in the s*** if some guys I just met didn't suck it up and help me through after a bad swim through Scissors.

I had a hard day through there yesterday and got pretty fatigued after the swim. The guys from Fraser were awesome even when I clearly wasn't on my game.

cheers boys.
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Old 08-30-2010   #14
rockinRio's Avatar
Thornton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 231
It was my understanding that the Swimmer was the less experienced of the two. I couldn't tell you if he was younger or old than the other I never met his partner. I'd say he was in his late 30s early 40s. But I wasn't really paying that much attention, and he probably looked a lot older than he was given the situation.

Thoughts on the tow tether-
Good Pro/Con list...
On the drive home as I was realizing I could have used the tether it didn't take long to think he likely would have rolled over. I would have had to sacrifice his head above water for getting to the shore a lot quicker. Had I not been in calm water the tether would have been my only option to get him to shore. So I think for the situation I likely did the safer thing. It is just good to talk about how things could have played out.
You ARE a soul, you HAVE a body.

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Old 08-30-2010   #15
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 78
Was the swimmer a registered racer (wearing a bib) or was he just in Gore to watch and paddle?
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Old 08-30-2010   #16
Dillon, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 22
Rockinrio, I just reread your post. Clay was the more inexperienced of the two. Seemed like a really nice guy. Thank you for risking your life to rescue him. You are a hero; there is no denying that.
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Old 08-30-2010   #17
rockinRio's Avatar
Thornton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 231
Originally Posted by willoughby View Post
Was the swimmer a registered racer (wearing a bib) or was he just in Gore to watch and paddle?
He was wearing a bib. He was a racer.
You ARE a soul, you HAVE a body.

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Old 08-30-2010   #18
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Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,507
fuck theathering a dude whos still breathing.. hes still kicking. you guys want to be dragged behind some kayak sounds like it would be just as bad as the swim.. outstanding job bob.. you did everything perfect. keep oxygen in the lad is very important. like you said 15 extra seconds and he wouldnt be so good..
also you going to detach your teacther to some guys whos already swimming? negative give him something extra to worry about..
A living human isnt a boat, you can'nt just drag them to shore.. its going to pull you down stream aka filled up boat. no bueno.. gotta get them on the cockpit and out of the water. your paddling is going to go to shit, but nobody expects you to drag them to shore in the middle of a four.
i suggest some recue classes for everybody..
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Old 08-30-2010   #19
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,097
Bob saved the swimmers life, no doubt in my mind. Awesome feat Bob! Modesty may make "hero" feel wierd, but don't sell yourself short, its the right word for what you did.

The swimmer had obvious large bruises on his legs and had taken a severe beating. Swimmer was unable to move, pale, eyes closed (could barely open them when asked), shallow breathing, and could barely muster a whisper in response to questions. He was in really bad shape.

A couple things come to mind to me...

First... how do you get an unconcious swimmer to shore solo? I'm not an advocate of clipping in to him with a rescue vest. You have no way to keep his head above water when he is clipped in and floating. Keeping his head above water is the #1 objective, and #2 is to get to shore. Also, if you clip in and swim or need to release the harness, it might not have enough force to pull the webbing on the safety strap through the buckle. Be very careful what you clip into! I think Bob executed the safest way to get the guy to shore in this circumstance.

Multiple safety nets were breached in this accident. Boaters rely on layers of safety to prevent accidents such as personal boating skill, self rescue skills, proper cold water gear / safety gear, shore and boat based safety by others, and communication on the river. To an extent all of these systems failed in this accident, as this guy slipped through the cracks.

Second hand reports were that the swimmer did not have much whitewater experience. I can't confirm this, but its chilling to think that the swimmer might not have had the skills to boat gore safely. The swimmer had a chance to self rescue in the pool below gore and above scissors. Perhaps he was already beaten down, but he had a very weak self rescue attempt and was unable to get out before scissors. The swimmer had a thin polypro T-shirt and swim trunks on, a PFD, helmet, and booties. I estimate that the swimmer was in the water for 10 minutes before we could fully haul him out of the water. While not freezing cold, the water in gore is a cool 60 degrees and will sap your energy fast without any protective cold water gear. Even a shorty top and neoprene pants would have helped.

The safety system somehow allowed him to pass through as well. I helped haul in his partner who got a rope 1/2 way through gore. I looked for the other swimmer after, and I saw a rope thrown to him in the pool above scissors, but it was upstream and he couldn't get it. There was a safety boater at gore and one at tunnel. I think "group think" had everyone thinking that the "other guy" would get him. The safety boater a gore told me he saw a rope in the water and didn't peel out after the guy. My guess is that he assumed the scissors safety boater would get to him. While I don't know the circumstances of the scissors safety boater, its clearly a major miss to not take action. In hindsight, the safety boaters need to be peeling out for every swimmer that doesn't get roped out in gore. One of the gore safety boaters was stationed up pretty high in the runout. I think having safety boaters at the very bottom eddies at the pool below gore and above scissors is best.

There was certainly a communication breakdown too. There didn't appear to be a system in place to fully account for swimmers to make sure all boaters were accounted for. I assumed, as did many, that someone downstream got him, and that turned out to be a very bad assumption. There wasn't any way for the majority of the folks at gore to know what happened to folks below pyrite. Perhaps a set up with 2-way radios at gore and pyrite would fix this. There has to be a way to make sure every racer is accounted for through this stretch. A gore observer could note number of boaters and type of craft entering gore, and could radio number of swimmers not rescued out of the bottom of gore. Observer at pyrite could verify that swimmers are either rescued, are still in need, or that boaters made it through safe. Its sad when there are over 50 people around the gore/scissors/pyrite sequence and only one person went after swimmer. The swimmer avoided death by being saved by the absolutely last line of unplanned defense.

I also think the safety at the gore race needs some improvement. For the most part safety went pretty well. Many boaters were roped out, and many self rescued. The raft guys improvised a litter out of oars, paddles, straps and rope and executed a textbook haul system up a difficult scree slope (great work guys!). On the other hand, the safety boaters didn't seem to be peeling out after swimmers. Being a safety boater at Gore rapid is a tough job. You need to be ready to peel out and run through scissors and pyrite jockeying with swimmers. I've seen expert boaters have a difficult time negotiating this stretch with swimmers holding on. My two cents is that if a person swims out of gore and into scissors the appropriate attitude should be all hands on deck. Better to get the entire safety boating crew after swimmers than have no one go because they all thought the next guy would go.

I suspect that the goal was to have safety set up below pyrite, but somehow that didn't happen. In hindsight, this was a major mistake. Not having a good system to evacuate injured boaters on hand was also a problem that could be improved upon.

While the vast majority of the racers and spectators were skilled boaters who were in control, there were a handful of boaters who seemed unprepared. I watched a non-racer raft flip in gore rapid in the channel above indecision. All 6 rafters were in the water, several of them were making minimal attempts to self rescue or swim to shore, and one girl's helmet came off and was floating in the water going downstream. I'd personally consider properly fitted safety gear (ie helmets) and the ability to actively self rescue the bare minimum qualifications to paddle gore.

Another thing missing in the safety set up was catchers to pull in swimmers who were roped at the end of the pendulum. I think its a good idea to station both a roper and a catcher at spots like gore.

My intention with sharing my observations is not to criticize what happened, but to highlight opportunities for improvement in the future. The reality is that we got lucky this weekend, and a guy almost died on a section of river that supposedly had a ton of safety in place. As a boating community we all have to strive to do better than this. The Gore Race is a great time, and its lots of fun to see everyone, but its not going to be much fun if there are fatalities. I don't have all the answers to how to make it better, but at a minimum I'd think that 1) better safety organization, 2) a good way of communicating on the river, and 3) some screening of racers might help improve things in the future.

I also want to say that I think the race organizers did a great job overall. Its a ton of work to put on an event like gore, and getting safety volunteers is like herding cats. Lets get it done better next time.

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Old 08-30-2010   #20
tj@cu's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 983
Great job to those that did the rescue, I think that holding onto the swimmer and paddling with one hand works well. My other thought is to just swim the guy to shore, in a pool I think you can effectively swim the victim to shore and you have a lot more control over the victims body position.

As far as the original accident, I think this is a learning experience. I don't want to call out individuals but the safety failed, I think the gore thru pyrite series is where almost all of the safety should be. And there should be multiple ropers above scissors and at least 2 safety boaters below. I think having a safety boat at the lip of scissors is a bad idea, thats a good way for the safety boater to end up in the hole on the left. A swimmer will flush right thru scissors and I think in the few hundred yard between scissors and pyrite is when safety boaters would be most effective.

I felt like there were to many safety personnel at tunnel, maybe I'm wrong but when I came through it seemed like there were at least 30 people near the water on the right, I'm not sure how many were actual safety. It seems to me that you could easily get by with 2 safety people at tunnel. I feel like some resources that should have been allocated for gore went to tunnel.

Someone above posted that the racers where told or had the mentality that there was going to be safety everywhere, this is flat wrong we were told that there wouldn't be safety at most of the rapids (stuff between pyrite and tunnel). I felt completely comfortable with this and no one should race without feeling fine about getting through the class 4 stuff or if something does happen of self rescuing.

The race was an awesome time and it seemed that most of the racers where not the ones shitshowing. I think that people really need to not be paddling the rapids (especially gore-pyrite) when the race is going on, it takes away from the safety that is really meant for the racers and adds another hazard. I was planning on running the sneak at gore but someone basically blocked the channel (non racers) and forced me to go to an alternate line. I was comfortable running the other lines but I know people that were in the race and only have run the sneak, it really pissed me off that the guy was eddied out and peeled out right in front of me while I was yelling at him to get out of the way. I think having situations like this adds danger to the race that is completely avoidable.

Kinda went on a rant there, but I am really glad at the rescue that was made, everyone involved deserves a pat on the back to a job well done. I also think that this shows the importance of talking about situations and getting people to be proactive to safety instead of reactive.

Hope the guy has a quick and full recovery.

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