rumor of tragedy on SBC, Anyone have info? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 06-02-2005   #1
Dave Frank's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
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rumor of tragedy on SBC, Anyone have info?

Heard there was a possible drowning on sbc tonight. That is all I doh't know. Anyone have beta? Hoping for thre best...

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Old 06-02-2005   #2
Arvada, Colorado
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All I've heard: boater under water for 18 minutes....he was with a group that went to get help...he was seperated from his boat after wet escape???? Lets pray!!!!
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Old 06-03-2005   #3
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here is a link for the story from a websurfer that wants to paddles browns.
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Old 06-03-2005   #4
Boulder, Colorado
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I was mountain biking the Walker Ranch trail last night. From a high point, I could see the emergency vehicles approaching. There were flashing lights down in the canyon. It looked like the narrow constriction just below the first Walker Ranch bridge. This one has a tight drop, followed by a big hole. The drop is lined with cliff and steep boulders. Don't know for certain, but that's where the activity was last night around 7:00 or so.
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Old 06-03-2005   #5
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Thoughts and Prayers for the family and friends of our lost friend.
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Old 06-03-2005   #6
Golden, Colorado
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I was in the group of four that came upon the accident about 10-15 minutes later. The drop was Moist Slot and the rock he was pinned under was about 15 feet downstream, river-right, from the hole created by the slot. I've seen this rapid at 250 and noticed this rock, but at 450 it is quite a bit more turbulence in the water flowing towards it.

The team that was involved in the accident had a rope on the victim when we arrived. 2 members were on the rock, river right, above the victim and 1 member was on the rock river left holding the attached rope.

----I'm going to leave the accident details to the group members because I don't want to screw something up.----

Our group was able to extract the victim only because we had the horsepower. Myself and another member from my party pulled up on the victim from the rock he was trapped under, while 3 people pulled on the rope on the other side of the river. You could not pull the victim out anyway but against the current, upstream. It was a five person effort overall to get him out. His head when we arrived was only a foot underwater, but it may have been deeper before we got there. Both of his hands were out of the water. I don't know the victim's state of consciousness when he reached the point where he was pinned.

Once we pulled him out, people started CPR, but honestly it was way too long after he'd gone under to make any difference. I'm not sure how long he was under, but the 18 minutes in the news story smells like someone picking a number that sounds exact. No one starts a stopwatch in a situation like that. I actually think it was probably longer because upon arriving we were told he'd already been under for 10 minutes and it probably took another 15 minutes after we arrived to get him out. There was no observable pulse when we pulled him from the water. When the paramedics arrived they put an EKG on him and it was flat.

I feel really bad for the team of guys he was with. It sounds like they scouted the drop, had safety setup, and were experienced. The way they described the accident to me, it sounds like they didn't do anything wrong.

Whoever the mountainbiker was that went for help, the officials who showed up said he did a perfect job describing the location -- they said this is a rarity, a lesson for the rest of us. The first ranger showed up only five minutes after we'd pulled the person from the river and dozen more people showed up in the next 15 minutes.

My conclusions/take-aways from the accident, and unfortunately also the one I participated in up on the Poudre three weeks ago, can be summarized in one sentence: when an accident happens and someone is underwater you have at most FIVE minutes to save your friend's life. Make sure you know what to do with in those five minutes and make sure your partners know what to do if it's you. Personally, I'm going to start mentally approaching my harder rapids as if I am by myself. I've had friends help me out of jams before, but I think this is a healthy, realistic approach to contemplating a drop. Don't run it just because you have a bagger on shore. Look at the whole drop and think about some of the scenarios that could play out. A lot of the good boaters I talk to seem to have this figured out already and I'm going to start applying it at my level of boating, too.
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Old 06-03-2005   #7
Join Date: Apr 2004
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Thoughts and feelings go out to family and the team involved. This is always difficult to take in.
Is the Moist Slot the first significant drop? If so, I have seen someone swim there and their paddle get stuck under the very under-cut rock that is just to the right after the whole. Scary spot.

Schizzle, i agree with you. Sorry again to hear the news...
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Old 06-03-2005   #8
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The gentlemen's name was James McFarland, he was from Golden, he was 34.
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Old 06-03-2005   #9
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I spoke with a member of the deceased's group this morning ,like Schizzle I DON'T WANT TO GIVE ANY MISINFORMATION,BUT HERE GOES;the first two boaters ran the drop with speed to punch the hole ,successfully Mr. MACFARLAND WHO APPARENTLY wasSCOUTING OR SETTING SAFETY,then handed my friend his throw bag and camera and procede to run the drop,he failed to clear the hole and was sucked back in ,i am not clear if he rolled or not but eventually swam into the sieve mentioned by Gary E. ON THE OTHER thread about safety the others in his group immediately got throw ropes to him but he was underwater .The side of the river nearest him was difficult terrain they tried like hell to save him eventually realizing they needed additional help ,my friend went up to the road or bike path and told some bikers to get help ,apparently there was another biker who helped as well,he then sought out SCHIZZLES group for help, with additional help from less frazzled boaters they got him out but it was too late, the authorities responded very quickly.I don't know where the news came up with 18 minutes,like we start a stop watch on rescues,my friends account matches Schizzzles about 1/2 hour.Hope this is accurate BE SAFE
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Old 06-04-2005   #10
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I was also in the group that came upon the scene after 10-15 minutes. My immediate reaction was that the tragedy had already happened, but we had to do our best even though we were realistic about our chances of a successful rescue. I have basic training in Wilderness First Responder and Swiftwater Rescue, and the others in our group also have rescue skills, training and experience. This was my first serious life threatening rescue, and today I'm thankful that I took the time to get trained before I needed it. I hope my account here is helpful to others who read about accidents as part of their outdoor education process.

The other boaters in the James' party had understandably lost morale. They reported James had been underwater for 10 minutes. He was pinned under the large rock river-right 15 feet down stream below Moist Slot, the first drop after the first bridge below the regular put-in for SBC. Flow was about 475 cfs. His head was visible about a foot below the surface with his hands on top of the water.

Two boaters from James' party were standing on the rock above him. They signaled with a flat hand across the throat, and then made a "Z" in the air requesting a z-drag. I admit at times I wasn't sure if we should be acting in rescue or recovery mode. Schizzle's five minute time limit is well supported, but none of us let that stop us from continuing our efforts. Two boaters from our party ferried across to the rock where James was pinned. They clipped a biner onto his PFD with a 6-7mm throw bag line and threw the other end across the river and upstream to the river-left rescuers. Two of us pulled on the line and James did move a bit, but we were not able to break him free. We felt some small jerks on the line, and we thought we were making some progress, but in fact we were only ripping the sheath off of the line. Lesson 1: A small throw bag line may not withstand the forces required to pull someone out of a sieve. We then spent about 5 minutes working with pulleys, biners and anchors setting up a z-drag. This turned out to be unnecessary. The river-right rescuers also clipped a second line (9mm?) on James and threw that to the river-left rescuers. Then the three river-left rescuers tied grab loops in the small degenerating line and moved to an angle slightly more upstream. With three rescuers pulling on river-left, and two rescuers above James on river-right, the core of the line held and we were able to free him from the sieve. If the core had broken, I'm not sure we wouldn't have had someone else in the hole. This was probably our biggest risk to the rescuers.

We pulled him over to river right on a flat rock just out of the water and began CPR. His face was white, and his pupils were fixed and dilated. After the first rescue breath, we could hear a significant amount of water in his lungs. Three of us rotated CPR positions for about 30 minutes until paramedics arrived. Occasionally someone would wander into the "red zone" with a radio and street shoes. We kindly asked them to move back to a more safe location. The CPR was effective, in that we saw good capillary refill in his face, but of course he was failing to respond. When the paramedics arrived we carried James up to the path on river-left where they put the EKG on him. It was flat.

One of the paramedics was a boater who had successfully pulled his friend out of the same sieve only a year ago. He was very professional and gave James every chance he could. Watching their urgency and professionalism convinced me that we made the right decision to stay in rescue mode, even though we were not successful. Lesson 2: Stay in rescue mode. This seems obvious, but in practice I found it hard to not get discouraged. A friend of mine pointed out that even though we weren't able to save James, perhaps he will be a viable organ donor because of our continued CPR - we may have saved someone else or even several others. Thirty minutes of CPR is not a fun job when it's so clear he won't survive, but it's the right thing to do. Keep up the morale!

The mysterious 18 minute timeframe came from me and another in our party. The paramedic asked us how long he was underwater. We said we didn't know but he wanted us to guess so we pulled the "18 minutes" out of the air. The press didn't make up the number, we did. Of course, none of us knew for sure. When we first arrived on the scene a member of James' party said he had been under for 10 minutes. He had already recognized they needed help, run up to the road and found a mountain biker and then ran back to the scene and found us in that amount of time. It probably wasn't any less than 10 minutes at that time, maybe longer. We don't even know how long it took us to get him out after we arrived. My best guess is that it was another 10 or 15 minutes. I estimate that he was underwater for a total of 20-30 minutes, but time moves in a different direction when someone is dying.

It sounds like everyone did what they could to save James. My heart goes out to the family and friends, especially the three who had to watch tragedy unfold. At some point, when they are ready, I hope they will be able to contribute to the dialog for the safety of others. I have notified Charlie Walbridge from the AW Safety Committee of this thread. For more information about accidents and responses, see the American Whitewater Safety page.

Please remember the ones who care about you when you're making good judgments.
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