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Old 07-22-2013   #11
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 11
...What I didn't know at the time, but found out later.

The boat ahead of us, got sucked river left and stuck in a massive wave/hole. The 32' boat was literally falling apart from the pounding. Our guides had the brilliant or completely stupid (depending on your vantage point) to ram the first boat and hope that the momentum would push us both through.

I knew nothing of this at the time. I just remember the intense waves. It wasn't a pleasant experience and I was excited, but scared at the same time. I don't remember the impact of hitting the other boat. I do remember our boat going into that hole and seeing nothing but water around us and then looking straight into the air as it seemed we were almost vertical on the face of the wave.

I remember a huge wall of water hitting me straight in the face. I was seated next to a kid even younger than me. We were holding the same strap. In an attempt to save him, I let go of the strap so that I wouldn't rip it out of his hand. I figured I could stabilize myself with my feet.

I remember opening my eyes and seeing nothing but green. I looked up and it felt as if I was more than 10 or 15 feet below the surface. In what seemed like minutes, I finally popped up.

It was an eerily quiet moment. No waves were hitting me, I saw our boat upside down floating behind me. I saw oranges floating in the water mixed with other debris. Everything was in slow motion and before I could comprehend what was happening, I was forced under water and now getting tossed around through the waves. Getting any sort of air was a challenge and then all of a sudden. That kid that was sitting next to me was on my back. Climbing on top of me, pushing me under the water even more. My survival instincts kicked in and I no longer was the nice guy. I pulled him off and pushed him away. I never saw him again (he didn't die or anything, we just got separated).

Somehow I got into an eddy and was able to swim to a river right rock. I sat there for at least four hours. I couldn't go anywhere. I couldn't see anyone. I thought I was the only one alive. Not more than 10 minutes later a helicopter hovered about 20 feet above me and 50 yards out. They had already been in the area because of another flipped raft. I waved them off after I realized they were asking if I was injured. I was fine.

About an hour later, a guy in a wet suit swam up to me. He was a rescuer that was swimming the rapids after jumping out of the heli. I was in shock, but okay. I asked if he had seen anyone else and he said no. I was the first person out of the water. He told me to stay still and wait for a rescue boat. I literally couldn't go anywhere. I was stuck on a steep rock face and there was no way I was getting back into the water.

Hours later, another tour raft showed up and I tried to get on. Still being exhausted and probably numb from not moving for so long, I just fell into their boat. We floated out of Cystal and I was so happy to see my father about a 1/4 mile downstream.

My sister was river left in the next rapid a ways downstream. We couldn't get to her and another boat would have to pick her up. I don't know how many miles downstream we finally saw my mom. It had to be about an hour of floating. She was with a group of people from our boat group. They were perched on rocks, crying, not knowing where their family was. Our boat and the other boat from our group was a heaping mass of rubber. They were trying to patch it the best they could. My mom saw us and was thrilled, but then freaked out when she realized my sister wasn't with us. We yelled that she is on the next boat and continued downstream as there was no where for this boat to stop.

Long story slightly shorter. My dad and I made it to a beach while my sister's boat stopped to let her out. My mom had been in the water for 15 or more minutes and had to be pulled from the water by another boat as she was about to give in from hypothermia. She just didn't have the strength to swim to shore.

My dad and I were taken out by helicopter that night. While my mom/sister left the next morning (it was getting dark). Our pilot was trying to cheer me up and was flying pretty close to the canyon walls to give me a thrill. Totally clueless that I had enough for the day. Although I do have to say, flying in the canyon at such low altitudes was pretty amazing.

Our group suffered several broken bones, sprains, etc. But no deaths. I can't say that someone else that went through Crystal before us had the same luck. It took a life. That is why the helicopters were there so quickly.

In a probable attempt to dodge lawsuits, we were given a "free" trip the next Summer. The canyon was completely different and we made all 6 days without incident. One of our guides was the same that we had the previous year. All of the others had called it quits. We stopped at Crystal to scout it out, even though it was probably not needed. We cried thinking about the moment, but went through with no problems. The much hyped Lava Falls was like a tiny speed bump compared to Crystal the previous year. I'm guessing I'll never see anything like that again.


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Old 07-22-2013   #12
ric's Avatar
Fruita, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 201
Thanks for postin benpetri
Great video...
83 was my first year on the Grand, picked up a canxl trip in February for a 5/11/83 launch, Moms Day!
We rode it while it was on it's why up,
Never played TL before, didn't even own a PDF, just invited Ski Patrolers for first-aid, bartenders for cocktails and all the ladys that worked there for fun, 50,000cfs at takeout, lake mead, 6 rafts all 16ft, 16 pp, 1 kayaker, first kayaker photos going off jump rock near end of canyon,21 days, no flips, 2 marriages 2 break ups, 76 cases of beer, full bar,
and all are still friends for life, it was Magical!!!
Then went home and watched the yampa climb up to 40,000+, through cross mnt!
Stopped at the dam on the way home, GC, you could feel the whole dam place, vibrations, they weren't in panic mode yet!
Thanks again for the rewind memory...

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Old 07-22-2013   #13
Park City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 494
Awesome story, Depthcharge. Quite the experience for a 15 year old.
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Old 07-23-2013   #14
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 498
83 was my 2nd of 8 years guiding in the Grand did 11 trips that year. Stayed right at Crystal and never got as much as a splash all year. Sliding by that hole was amazing. I scouted every time just to sit on the rocks beside the hole and be amazed. Once you got over the difference and the speed it was really easy just the price for mistakes was much more severe. My two biggest memories are coming back from a havasu hike and all the boats in the mouth were standing on end and we rock paper scissored for who had to dive into the water and cut the lines. The water had went from the high 20s to the high 40s in a few hours. The second was scouting Lava the next day and being disappointed at seeing the 30 to 40 yard wide slick down the left side. There were 10 foot rollers but no crashing waves or holes. Nothing heroic.

We also changed up our 12 day oar schedule and would spend an extra day between deer creek and Havasu then go from national to 220 in one day. As to the original question heard lots of stories about near death experience from guides also remember pieces of the flipped boat from the above story floating by at a camp in the 140s. Sj
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Old 07-24-2013   #15
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1
Join Date: Jul 2012
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Originally Posted by tmacc View Post
Awesome story, Depthcharge. Quite the experience for a 15 year old.
Kinda weird to think back about it. My wife is a psychologist and always said that it is likely that this experience affected me more than I originally thought. I always brushed it off as another crazy adventure. However, the older I get (now 44) I see how right she is. It probably shaped more of my life than I realize.

Funny how there are few things I remember as a kid that vividly. Come to think of it, I can't remember anything that clearly. Weird how it has stuck.
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Old 08-06-2013   #16
Montrose, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 128
Originally Posted by CWorthy View Post
If it's a short story collection, it's probably from Christa Sadler's "There's this River". It's been a while since I read it, but the story sounds familiar. Another great book about the crazy summer of 1983 is "The Emerald Mile" - it just came out a few months ago, and, it is an awsome read!
Just finished "The Emerald Mile"... I wanted more! Some of the best written non-fiction I have ever read. The author has a fantastic way with words and did an awesome job of researching the entire story to paint a great picture.
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Old 08-06-2013   #17
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 728
Originally Posted by DepthCharge View Post
Kinda weird to think back about it. My wife is a psychologist and always said that it is likely that this experience affected me more than I originally thought. I always brushed it off as another crazy adventure. However, the older I get (now 44) I see how right she is. It probably shaped more of my life than I realize.

Funny how there are few things I remember as a kid that vividly. Come to think of it, I can't remember anything that clearly. Weird how it has stuck.

So when are you going back to find out?
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Old 08-06-2013   #18
Riverton, Utah
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 337
From "The Emerald Mile"

"Jiminy Christmas" translated to normal speech is "Holy Mother of God".

I read the Crystal Rapids description of the mayhem late last night... finally had to put it down and go to bed before I wet my pants.

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Old 08-06-2013   #19
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Orem, Utah
Paddling Since: 1969
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 207
I don't recall the OPs story being in Christa's book. Although there are several stories that do talk about '83. I had an uneventful '83 but a coworker and friend of mine was driving the boat that flipped and the gentleman died from a heart attack, or from something striking him very hard in the chest, or a combination of both.(they never determined) Christa's book has my friend's name wrong, and he is ok with that. He will talk to me about the incident if I ask, but it is not a story he tells when taking guests down the river.
Some stories bear repeating every chance you get, and some stories are better left untold I think.
You had me at 'Hey, Row'
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Old 08-07-2013   #20
Provo, Utah
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 18
I could be wrong, but I think the answer to the original question is the book "Canyon" by Mike Giglieri. Good luck.

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