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Old 06-11-2014   #21
bobblehead's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 45
observation from Saturdays accident

Hey all,

I was surprised to see the gopro footage of the accident, and it was a bit haunting. I came upon the accident Saturday just as the first responder arrived. Having been on SAR, I knew by the look in his eyes that things were not good. To clarify, this was just above the junction of 119 and 6. I jumped out of my car and ran to help. There were three people on the scene: one rescuer and two bystanders pointing. I quickly realized they were pointing at the an individual, unconscious, floating face down in an eddy just on the opposite shore. A quick assessment of his position told me two things: he wasn't going to be in the eddy long, and by the way he was floating, he did not have a jacket on.

I yelled at the rescuer that I would grab my vest and a bag and I could have my kayak off m car and in the water in 30 seconds. As I was running back to my car, numerous rescue vehicles arrived. I was essentially asked to stand down.

At this point an interesting thing occurred...I witnessed an unbuckled life jacket float by. I had assumed that if he had floated down through double knife, etc, it was possible his jacket was stripped. Seeing the jacket float by unbuckled was alarming.

Ok, so I know from experience how hard there men and women work and the burden they shoulder from their daily experiences. That said, it was hard to sit idly by why the group mobilized donning wetsuits, helmets, riverboards etc, when a quick tethered swim would have got someone to the victim. I kept saying they were going to lose him out of the eddy at any minute, which indeed occur. Again, this is NOT a criticism of the crew, just an observation. As the crews quickly jumped back in vehicles to head downstream, I noticed two trip clients (blue jacket, yellow helmet, wetsuit) on the other side of the road clutching each other crying. No-one was tending to them, so I rushed over to check on them. It is now that I have trouble typing this...the young girl (14-15yo.) collapsed into my arms screaming "it's my dad!" over and over....her mom couldn't speak. I have two daughters, and this was heartbreaking.

Through her tears, she told me he had floated so far, and she had seen him take his jacket off...I don't know what to make of it, so if someone has more info on how he ended up without his jacket, please let me know. I wonder if he was in a boat that pulled over, chose to take his jacket off, and somehow fell in.

In any case, this family never expected to lose their father and husband that day, and it is truly heartbreaking. I do have a very practical question however. Given the number of boats, and the high water, don't most of the CC companies utilize rescue boaters? I did not see any in the video footage, and in this case suspect it may have made a difference.

Certainly, there is no way to mitigate all of the risk...rivers can be dangerous. What we can do is be prepared to deal with emergencies when they arise, and take precautions to minimize danger. Not meant to be a sermon, but it has weighed heavy on me all week. cheers, and be safe.

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Old 06-11-2014   #22
Arkansas during the off-season Nomadic during the summers! :), Arkansas & Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 945
Bobblehead...That's a tough situation being told to stand down. Yes for liability reasons and such but it sounds like you knew you could get to him much more quickly in a situation where seconds count...I would have gone anyway and probably have gotten ticketed, but still gone.

Not criticizing you but the situation where rescue turns down a perfectly good chance to help for some stupid liability reason.

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Old 06-11-2014   #23
glenn's Avatar
BZN, Montana
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 1,489
SAR operates with a large safety margin and assumes any bystanders are potential victims. A conservative approach that keeps themselves safe and reduces the risk of additional rescues being needed. It does not offer the victim the best chance though. SAR has a broad set of skills and WE are the experts in the water. I would have taken the ticket personally. Although given the situation it's hard to say if getting to him sooner would have made a difference. Terrible scene, particularly for the Wife and Daughter to have to see unfold.
The sunshine walked beside her
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Old 06-11-2014   #24
Arkansas during the off-season Nomadic during the summers! :), Arkansas & Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 945
Correct Glenn!
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Old 06-11-2014   #25
bobblehead's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 45
totally agreed. It was a tough call. I wasn't worried about protocol in the slightest...I had made a decision to go in the water regardless of the consequences when the rest of the first responders arrived. I assumed that it would be a very quick mobilization, and to their credit, they were hustling for sure, but as you point out, there is a process that's followed to protect the rescuers. After about 60 seconds of observing what I expected to be a lengthy prep, I decided to go for my vest and hit the water. That's the point at which he flushed out of the eddy. After seeing my share of bad situations, I reflect and realize it would not have likely made a difference at that point, but it's something I do consider.

To be clear, my post wasn't meant to criticize the rescue crew. They are a great bunch that have to deal with challenging situations and rapidly changing circumstances. Glen, great point about skill sets. If anything good emerges from me sharing this story, is for everyone to recognize the contribution you can make in any emergency situation. NEVER sit by passively. There is always something you can do to help. In this situation, I was actually much more upset that the daughter and wife werent being looked after. Thankfully a passerby stopped and picked them up to take them further down river.
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Old 06-11-2014   #26
Learch's Avatar
Dundee, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 655
Hey Bobblehead, sorry you had to go through this too. I have been interested in swiftwater rescue, but I don't know if I could handle the emotional toll that it takes on days like this one. You obviously served an important role to that girl, and I wouldn't 2nd guess any decision you made. It is pretty heart breaking, and I'll store away the information I can learn from, but most importantly, I'll hold my kids a little tighter tonight, thankful I get to, in honor of this Dad.
Wishing I was on the river instead of surfing the web...
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Old 06-12-2014   #27
Old Guy in a PFD
Tucson, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,022
Tough day on the river. lives changed forever.

As a former cop I can say that often people want to jump in and help but in the press of the moment the automatic response is to have them stand back. The last thing we want is to complicate a situation because a well meaning but unqualified observer jumps in and ends up becoming part of the problem.

It's happened to me that bystanders have jumped in and both kept an ugly situation from getting uglier, and in another situation probably ended up causing a death.

You cannot beat yourself up with this; you helped as best you could. Be sure that the SAR folks who told you to stand down are wondering what might have been if only.....

And to the guide that day; a hard lesson about rivers and safety
And to the company; a hard lesson about rivers and safety
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Old 06-12-2014   #28
Shit Creek, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 277
Tough to see and feel helpless. I know the Clear Creek swiftwater team well. When we can be quick to criticize in a situation that didnt turn out well, dont forget, an amazing save just 2 days prior by members of the same team, pretty much same scenario, except a longer swim. CC county was my home for 10 years and the river I learned to paddle on. I am amazed by the apparent lack of safety kayakers. We ran Lawson/Dumont as an R4 crew at 900 when it was on the way up, and for 3 rafts one company had 4 kayakers. The other company putting on behind us at 2 for 2 rafts of customers. Also have seen when it isnt busy with all the boats out running, another guide opposite the main guide in the rear. Watched one set up a quick rescue while the main guide was busy commanding the crew and controlling the boat safely. Things these companies might need to think about at such high water on CC. A couple of times when scouting with boaters new to CC, I have even bailed out shore safety for companies when they werent paying attention or freaked out when bad flips happened.

Tough lessons and hard to watch as a bystander. Make sure you take care of yourself after this. I will never forget how long it took me to deal with my first fatal MVA. A teenage kid out of first aid class, headed into a career in EMS and nursing. 17 years later, I still have to go back to square one to properly cope as some of them hit closer and affect us differently.

Speak of Peace, (but carry a big gun)
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