We Lost Allen Satcher - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-08-2011   #1
Beaverton, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 572
We Lost Allen Satcher

A well-known kayaker from Portland drowned Sunday morning after he got caught in a whirlpool in the fast-flowing waters above Cherry Lake in eastern Tuolumne County, authorities said.

Allen Michael Satcher, 28, was among a group of six kayakers in Cherry Creek when his kayak got caught in a whirlpool near the third drop at Waterfall Alley, said sheriff’s Sgt. Jeff Wilson.

“He was caught spinning and spinning and couldn’t get out,” he said.
As his kayak kept spinning, witnesses told authorities that Satcher jumped out to try to escape, but then got caught himself, tired and went under water. Another kayaker got a rope around Satcher, pulled him out and performed CPR on him for 30 minutes.

Wilson said that area is popular for kayakers.

A whirlpool can form in a river by fast-moving water flowing around an object like a submerged rock, creating a spinning motion. “When the water is this high, it’s not even safe for people who know what they’re doing,” Wilson said.

The Sheriff’s Department received a call at 9:54 a.m. regarding a GPS beacon that had been activated in the area of Cherry Bomb Gorge, a remote area near the creek. A California Highway Patrol helicopter was able to locate the source of the beacon, and officers were able to land and talk with the group.

Satcher has appeared in kayak ads for NRS, an Idaho-based outdoor gear and sporting goods company.

Read more: Portland kayaker dies in Tuolumne County waters - Breaking News - Modbee.com

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Old 08-08-2011   #2
Mark the dude's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 52
I'm reading this in the airport and I really don't want to believe this is true. I lived and worked with Allen in Chile a couple years ago. He was one of those people you just felt an instant connection with. He was one of the few people who I have met in my life who was a genuinely good person through and through who really loved his life and his friends. If you were his friend, he would go to the end of the earth for you. Now that I think about it, he would probably do the same even if you were a complete stranger. I really wish I could have spent more time with him, but I am very grateful to have those three months of memories, and a fun day skiing with him in breck this last season. My most sincere condolences to all his friends and family. RIP good buddy.
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Old 08-09-2011   #3
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Near water (hopefully), Colorado
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Terrible. RIP
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Old 08-09-2011   #4
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Seattle, Washington
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Here's some comments from a group member that wishes us all to take with: I agree 100% having personally pulled a buddy out of a walled in pocket eddy lower on the same run. My gist is HAVE A FULL LENGTH ROPE - TAKE IT WITH YOU WHEN YOU GET OUT OF YOUR BOAT!!!!!! This saved my buddies life and required every bit of 70 feet on a creek with 200-300cfs tops.

Access is always the biggest limiting factor for effective rescue. The difference between life and death often boils down to being in the right place at the right time. Even “inaccessible” gorges such as Waterfall Alley, Double Potholes and Cherry Bomb have little cracks and ledges that allow reasonable chances for rescue- IF you plan and move carefully. I make a habit of looking for these spots whenever I scout a rapid. It’s not pessimism. It’s just part of improving overall success by going ahead and figuring out what to do when (not if) one day one of your crew ends up in a fucked-up spot. Actually getting out of your boat and into that spot is vastly better, and doesn’t take that long in the grand scheme of things.

There are a lot of things that could have happened differently two days ago that would have saved Allen’s life. Don’t worry, I am not torturing myself with “what ifs”. Every one of us did everything we could think of, as fast as we could, to try to save Allen. With that said, the luxury of countless hours to analyze the situation provides some ideas for future rescues.

‎1- As mentioned above, look around, find the access points in relation to the hazards. Get there if it’s safe to do so, and be ready to get there fast if your homie needs you to. Be willing to take some risk to save a life, just as you would to run a big drop.
2- Have a throwbag accessible- in your lifejacket or between your legs. If getting out of your boat is not possible, but getting close to the person in trouble is, you can pop your skirt, pull out the rope and clip the free end to the back security loop of your boat. Reseal your skirt and stuff the rope into the gap between skirt and lifejacket enough to secure it. This process only takes about 15 seconds if you can do it in a good eddy. Paddle upstream and get CLOSE to the person. Throwing a rope from in your boat is surprisingly awkward, and did not work in this case because I did not reseal my skirt and fight my way all the way up to the pothole. Again, I am not kicking myself- I just want to share this idea in the hopes that it may prevent another tragedy. This technique works really well for walled-in holes with eddies right below them- much more reasonable access in those cases.

‎3- Speaking of throwbags, have a real throwbag- seventy feet of Spectra. The little lifejacket dealies are cute and all, but they ain’t worth shit when they can’t reach, or the rope’s too small to hold onto. The NRS Pro Rescue is perfect, and not too heavy or expensive. The last two rescues I did that worked used about 58, and 69 feet of rope respectively. Even a sixty foot might not have made the first of the two, which may have become a similar tragedy for a beloved friend.
4- Practice rescues on logs. We need those fuckers out anyway. The dynamics of access, teamwork and the forces at play are remarkably similar to real pins.

I agree that paddling into a serious gorge thinking something bad will happen is not a good idea. Optimism is key to success. However, paddling into the same gorge without a clue of how to rescue someone from it is just plain retarded. I’m not asking anyone to quit charging hard. Neither would Allen. I just want to see a little more forethought go into these serious undertakings. I don’t want to see another bright smiling face turn into a dead cold lump of flesh.

Another post from a different paddler discussed a fatality here in CO that may have been prevented if there was a full length rope present:

In my experience, pulling someone out of a hole by throwing them a rope from your boat seldom (if ever) works. I have tried it unsuccessfully several times, including one incident that ended in a fatality. Of course, we wouldn't have had to try that if someone in the group had been carrying a 70 foot rope. The more likely scenario is that the person in the recirculation pulls the rescue boat back in with them. This can be mitigated by communicating to the swimmer that they need to grab the bag and get on the end of the rope, then paddling far enough away that there is no danger of being pulled back in. Also, clip the rope not to the loop on your kayak, but to your rescue vest strap or the end of your tow strap. This will allow you to escape via quick release and not become another victim in the case that something goes wrong. Then have a backup on shore who can throw a rope to you (while still in your boat) and pull both you and the swimmer until the swimmer comes free of the recirculation.

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Old 08-09-2011   #5
Beaverton, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2005
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The "Allen Satcher Memorial" Run is on Wednesday night at 5pm at Bob's Hole on the Clackamas for those who are local.
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Old 08-09-2011   #6
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Lakewood, 80214
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sad news. my thoughts are with his family and friends
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Old 08-09-2011   #7
Seattle, Washington
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Aug 2011
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Allen was a great friend of mine, and my first paddling partner. His passion for kayaking was so contagious and motivating and I credit him for really pushing me into the world of kayaking. Years ago, we used to drive a ridiculous amount of miles from Pullman, where we went to school, just to surf some tiny little feature on the Salmon. Six hours of driving for three hours of surfing. He was definitely a motivator. I have great memories of many of my kayaking firsts with Allen, including my first real scary swim which Allen bagged me out of, on a drop he convinced me to run first!

Allen was an great kayaker and a phenomenal person. I will never forget his enthusiasm for life and the people living it with him. He will be greatly missed, and my thoughts go out to his family.
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Old 08-09-2011   #8
Tempe, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1980
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My condolences to the family and friends. Rest in Peace Allen. We lost a boater from AZ in CO a month ago, this is turning out to be a very gloomy WW season.
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Old 08-09-2011   #9
Clarkston, Washington
Paddling Since: 1976
Join Date: Apr 2008
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My name is Clyde Nicely and I work at NRS. I never boated with Allen, I'm a rafter, but I worked along side him when he was in Customer Service here when he was attending WSU in Pullman. I have fond memories of his fun loving personality and zest for the outdoors and kayaking. Those of us who knew Allen are really feeling the loss of a good friend.

Couple of things: Allen's high school class in Kelso, WA is having their class reunion in a couple of weeks. They've asked us for photos that they can use in a tribute to him. At least a couple of you who've posted knew him. If you have photos you'd like to share, we can put you in touch with his classmates.

Also, Joe, your comments on the rescue are powerful and very instructive. If you and/or other group members would like to put together any insights and safety thoughts as a help to others, we'd be honored to distribute them through our various channels.

You can reach me at [email protected] or ask for me at 800.635.5202. Thank you.
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Old 08-09-2011   #10
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Just to clarify, I wasn't there. The post is mostly from a member of the group that was there. I'm just re-posting it.
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