5 commercial deaths on the Ark is too many - Mountain Buzz

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Old 07-08-2007   #1
Join Date: Nov 2005
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5 commercial deaths on the Ark is too many

I think this topic warrants a new thread, separate from the other one on the recent two deaths at the Numbers.

5 commercial deaths is too much. Way too much.

I think the law says customers assume the risk, but if there are so many death, there's something wrong either with what is communicated to customers about the risk, the section of the river that is run, the skill of the guides, or the law. Can someone do approximate statistics on how much greater the chances are of dieing per hour spent rafting on the Ark compared to per hour spent driving? I bet the ratio is high, like 100 to 1.

I think commercial rafting can be made much safer. The guides probably need to be better (and better paid!), and more safety precautions, such as safety kayakers. Also, perhaps the companies can do a better job of weeding out people from a run on the Numbers who aren't prepared for a tough swim.

I agree with much of what is said below, except for that we can't accept the status quo. The death rate is too high and there are some things that can be done to reduce it.

Whitewater rafting is inherently risky, as anyone with any of these companies will tell you, and any passenger on a commercial trip signs a waiver agreeing that they have understood these risks, although it's hard to explain to people exactly what those risks are. A good analogy is that we all know that driving is inherently dangerous, and most of us think we understand and accept the risks; unless we are involved in a head-on collision, or a rollover after a spinout on ice, we don't have a concrete understanding of how dangerous it can be and the consequences.

What is so hard to predict is exactly what will happen on the river in a crisis situation. Some people have underlying medical problems that show up when they are suddenly immersed in cold water. Some people become paralyzed by fear or shock and cannot take the necessary steps to rescue themselves by swimming to shore. Head injuries can happen even when people wear helmets. Sometimes the boater is on a stretch of river they have run many times before, and end up in trouble for unknown reasons, like the woman who drowned on the Poudre last year.

I don't think there is anything mysterious or weird about this season. More people in boats = more accidents. When you have thousands of people on the Ark, you get more boat flips, and unfortunately more accidents, with a few tragic results.
Yea, some freak accidents happen. And some people with medical conditions who shouldn't be on the river also die. But, this death rate is too high.

I'm really interested in that statistic on how much greater the chances are of dieing per hour spent rafting on the Ark compared to per hour spent driving.

I can probably get a pretty good estimate. How many people raft the Ark each year? Say 250,000? Is the average number of deaths in a year 3? Let's say the average trip is 2 hours long actually on the water moving. That's 3 deaths in 500,000 customer hours, or 1 in 170,000 hours.

The 2001 car mileage death rate of 1.54 fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles of travel. If we say the average overall speed is 40 mph, that's 1.5 deaths in 2.5 million vehicle hours, or 1 death per 1.7 million vehicle hours.

So the increased death rate of rafting over driving is 10:1. That's not that bad at all. Perhaps 3 deaths per year isn't that bad. But, I still think some simple things can be done to make it safer, and should be done, especially for the tough stretches like the Numbers.

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Old 07-09-2007   #2
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The data or stats that you use are off. I would re-do this post and start over from the 1st sentance. But only if you are looking to correct your overstatements.

Also I would not use any untrue statements like you have to start any argument - but say what you like. If you bend the truth you can make it what you want.

May be a good point but at least do a small bit of research so you dont sound like an ass.
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Old 07-09-2007   #3
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Worth thinking about. As long as outfitters take passengers who can barely swim to start with, are out of shape, and overweight on cold, continuous whitewater, there will continue to be deaths in excess of what there might otherwise be if people were healthier, fitter and approached rafting like kayaking, by building up to harder rivers. But people should be free to choose what they want, it is their live they are endangering, not anyone else's. Guides are paid (poorly) to accept the risk dealing with the rescue of those folks, so I'd exclude them from that category. I guess I don't know that it's really the outfitters' fault when the clients are not fit to self-rescue.
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Old 07-09-2007   #4
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RDNEK, Why don't you say what stats are off and what statements are untrue? I'm seriously interested in corrections and alternative opinions.

Yea, I knew it would be controversial, but I still think this is a valid topic and my points are credible.
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Old 07-09-2007   #5
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Well for starters it is 4 people by my count from the article on the last "death and doom post" so that is the 1st untruthfull statement that you made.

2nd there has only been one death in the numbers in this incident - not 2 - so that is the 2nd untruth you posted. At least read the information.

I can continue........................................
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Old 07-09-2007   #6
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RDNEK, yes, please continue.

There were two deaths in this latest incident at the Numbers. One pronounced dead at the scene, another revived after 45 minutes, but died later in the evening. The evening death didn't get in the papers, so they reported only the death at the scene.

I agree with Caspian that the guides care a lot and do the best they can.
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Old 07-09-2007   #7
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Originally Posted by basil View Post
RDNEK, Why don't you say what stats are off and what statements are untrue? I'm seriously interested in corrections and alternative opinions.

Yea, I knew it would be controversial, but I still think this is a valid topic and my points are credible.

So now basil I showed my cards - If you feel that I am a full of shit - show me how I am spewing untruths.

It may just be me but if you want your points to be credible do the research and dont just pop off.

Also I am not sayin that your point is not valid. All I am sayin is that your post has more holes than my old bigfoot squirt boat.
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Old 07-09-2007   #8
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The information that I got was from one EMT who responded and they thought that the woman who got cpr for 40 or so min lived - this is what they thought today - this is also what all the published information says.

I cant say if the woman died later. If so my information and posts are wrong. Where did you find out the information about the second woman?
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Old 07-09-2007   #9
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ive been waiting for a post like this to come up....

i think the real problem here is greedy raft guide companies sending down tourists who have NO BUSINESS whatsoever being in a raft.

rafting is a serious, and yes, sometimes deadly sport. thats why we do it. but these tourists from Texas and Oklahoma has little, if any, concept of just how serious it is. Sure, you can give them the "safety" talk, but really all that info is going in one ear and out the other, as you are just holding them up from their raft trip.

These tourists come up and just expect that the guides will see them down safely, regardless of conditions or factors that come into play. Props to all the guides on the river, because I am not attacking you guys. You guys definitely do all you can and thats definitely commendable. My beef is with the companies. I have raft guided several seasons before and I was going to again this year but about April I had a realization: if I see a group of tourists who have no business being in a boat, and I just know something is going to happen, then theres little I can do about it. I cant say "i dont want this boat" and not take it, because the greedy company that i guide for just sees the dollar bills those tourists flash, and thats all they need to see.

lets look at it straight here. Who was the victim? a 52 year old woman from Texas. My surest condolences to the family, friends, and everyone involved, but the question that screams in my mind is: What in the HELL is a 52 year old woman doing in a raft in the NUMBERS? Last time I checked the Numbers was solid class IV, especially when it chundering along at nearly 1,500 cfs. This woman had probably never been rafting before, and if she has, it was probably really limited experience. And did anyone stop her or suggest she shouldnt get on the raft? no. she forked over her $96 bucks or whatever it is in cold hard cash and thats good enough for the guiding company. I believe every raft guide company in the valley has signs saying "the numbers is for experienced rafters only, with the right physical ability and knowledge to get yourself out of a situation". I personally dont believe she was in the right physical condition (nor was the guy with the heart condition earlier....) and I doubt she had proper knowhow to get herself out. bottom line: she should never have been near the raft, or at the very least, not on the numbers, and yet, because she had cold hard cash, nobody did shit about it.

the death on the milk run was a freak accident involving the dam, but so many of these deaths are so preventable and it really is a tragic shame to see when it happens. these families come out and think theyre just invincible on their family vacations, and that they can do anything. its almost poetic justice that something bad happens when you dont use common sense. i took a swim one time in Pine Creek and i barely made it out, and I am a strong swimmer with SWR experience and several seasons on the river under my belt, and it was all i could do to get myself out. And yet every day, how many boats loaded with unsuspecting (and unknowledgeable) clients float down that rapid every day?

so as I said before, Im not attacking the guides. i think the problem lies with the companies, and their inability to say "NO" to certain people when the cold hard cash is being stuck in their face. Private party deaths are always sad too, but those are almost to be expected, because most private boaters know what they are getting into. most of the tourists who float probably have never been rafting before, let alone know proper safety procedures, and yet, lets send a boat of 8 of em down the numbers, and we dont care, because were $300 richer! woo hoo! who cares if someone dies, we got bank!!

thats just my basic opinion on the whole situation. i really am sorry for everything that happened this year, every time someone dies on the river it is a sad day for all. but i think the raft guide companies are the ones to blame here. if they would simply scan their clients and not let them overestimate themselves then I think the number of fatalities would go down.
"Don't f$&@ing eddy out, just run it! Whaddya doin??" -LMyers
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Old 07-09-2007   #10
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yetigonecrazy, & others,

I agree w/Yeti. the raft companies could screen & better manage who runs cl. 4 (RG,##). Could AHRA be more interactive w/the companies w/safey requirements besides the waivers?
I have suggested to AHRA that all man-made potentially hazardous structures be removed & made safer.

Also, make all clients dress to swim. i.e. full-wet suits, or shorty farmer-johns. Theses folks are in swim suits & get beat up on the rocks &/or hypothermic. Even if it's low-water-dress to swim. I do.

As for the guide trainee location on Browns'. Could have been taught in Parkdale, by the road! The practice is the same, less hydralics & better access for emergencies.

btw- I hear the raft Co's want to increase their number of rafts on ##'s. AHRA has the beta. More commercial rafters on ##'s could potentially be more dangerous for us all.
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