Flush drowning at skull - Mountain Buzz

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Old 05-26-2009   #1
Park City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1985
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Flush drowning at skull

FYI. Looks like the river was at about 28 K.
Do comercials run at that level?

Dangerous weekend: Rafting accident kills man on Colorado River

Nate Carlisle
The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated: 05/26/2009 10:58:00 AM MDT

An Ohio man died Monday when his raft overturned on the Colorado River -- marking the end of a dangerous Memorial Day weekend in southeast Utah.
Dennis L. Young, 57, of Columbus, Ohio, was washed down river after his raft flipped at Skull Rapids in Westwater Canyon.
The other two people from his raft got out of the water quickly, but Young may have been in the water 20 minutes before other rafters extracted him, said Grand County Chief Deputy Curt Brewer.
Young likely passed out from the cold water and drowned, Brewer said. He was wearing a helmet and life jacket. The group continued to a landing spot at Cisco where they called law enforcement.
Heavy rains created flash flooding in southeast Utah just as outdoor enthusiasts and concert- goers descended on the area for the holiday weekend.
One of the most dangerous episodes occurred Saturday near the lines of Grand and San Juan counties. A caravan of 18 people -- eight of them children -- traveling in Jeeps were in Kane Creek Canyon as a wall of water approached, Brewer said.
The group abandoned the Jeeps and ran to higher ground to avoid injury, Brewer said. Water destroyed one Jeep winched to a tree and washed away two others. Brewer said those Jeeps had not been found as of Sunday.
Grand County search and rescue teams helped two other groups stranded by flooding on Saturday. About nine people were stranded near Power Dam, Brewer said. Another group was

stranded along the Green River in Grays Canyon when water washed away the gravel road.
The group was stuck in the canyon until Sunday when a county road crew with a front loader was able to repair the road. No one in that group was injured, though one horse was washed away and killed, Brewer said.
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Old 05-26-2009   #2
Grand Junction, Colorado
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Originally Posted by Canada View Post
FYI. Looks like the river was at about 28 K.
Do comercials run at that level?
Yeah commercials run at that level. I was there this weekend, sharp eddy lines, whirlpools, etc. The water is cold and crankin'...I know I wouldn't want to swim. Be safe out there.
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Old 05-26-2009   #3
Denver, Colorado
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We ran westy the monday before at 26k ish. Most of it was washed out but skull was a huge wall of water.

I wonder if this guy was wearing a wetsuit? Most of our crew was suited up because the water was very cold.
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Old 05-26-2009   #4
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I passed Holiday overnight trip on WW on Saturday. They stayed at Little D, the only camp site that is accessible above rapids now. Skull was raging and unpredictable. I yelled at my paddlers to work like hell to stay away from the surf line of Skull. Eddie lines and whirlpools were bad.

Sad news definitely, careful out there. River is unforgiving now.
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Old 05-26-2009   #5
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any pictures of Skull at these levels??
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Old 05-26-2009   #6
Join Date: May 2009
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I ran Westwater in a Paddle boat on Sunday at 24,600 with a strong paddle group. It was my first time on Westwater. Keldin (sp?) the ranger at the put in decided to come down with us so that we would not go solo. My hat goes off to him and his focus on safety. This is a tragedy for sure. Skull rapid was big and there were some gnarly whirl pools throughout. We wore wetsuits......would not have wanted to swim without one.
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Old 05-26-2009   #7
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First, condolences to the family and friends of the individual who drowned. It's a terrible thing to go through on the river as well, so we should be thinking also about those on the trip with him, and others involved in the aftermath.

Here are some pictures of Skull at about 25k a week or so ago.

The left photo is not a wave train, but rather is the surging eddy line between the main current and the Room of Doom. The water level in the Room itself was several feet higher than the main current, so getting in there would be pretty hard.

The Rock of Shock photo on the right really doesn't do it justice. I never was able to catch it fully pillowed up -- even higher than it shows here. And the vortex to the left of the Rock was terrifying. It was a tremendously violent and totally unpredictable suck hole.


Rich Phillips
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Old 05-27-2009   #8
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I should have added a little more functional information to that last post. This is aimed at rafters, although kayakers can take note as well, I suppose.

Skull has a lateral from the left at virtually all levels. The raft typical move is to break the lateral (a downstream ferry starting on the far right wall is a common strategy). This moves you away from Skull hole and the Rock and Room.

At these higher levels there actually are two laterals. Break the first one, and the second one right behind it still has a tendency to stop you and surf you toward the bad stuff.

To make things more complicated, at lower levels, there is slack water behind the lateral, so you can maneuver pretty well to position yourself for the rest of the run. But at this level, there is fast moving water behind the laterals. That means you are still being pushed toward that mess depicted in the photos.

The result is that even if you deal with the laterals OK, you are still going to have to ferry hard to stay away from the stuff that will flip you. And if you flip, there is a fair chance the current will take you right into that devil's toilet bowl to the left of the Rock.


Rich Phillips
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Old 05-27-2009   #9
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Fruita, Colorado
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High water westwater !

I ran it solo, at 26,000cfs thursday, ran again on monday 28,000cfs with a group,both days the issue at Skull was being to left to early!
I think thats where the carnage is happening? Water temps are cold but not like mountain streams where the water was snow hours earlier. Yes, with these water volumes doubling up on life jackets is not a bad idea. Swims in the inner gorge are NOT good, I was getting suck down in the eddy whirlpools in my kayak, kinda like a toilet bowl, spinning and squirting,you can't fight it, just go with it!

Sad to hear hear of loss of life!
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Old 05-27-2009   #10
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C. Springs, Colorado
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This article mentions another lady drowning on the Dolores, on Monday. Condolances to the family and friends of these boaters.

Rafters drown in Colorado, Dolores rivers
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