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I know that many of you have been close to a death on the river, so I thought I'd share my experience to see if others had thoughts or advice about how to move on. For the most part, I have moved on, I mean I'm on the river nearly everyday as a guide, passing the spot where the incident occurred. I have fun and enjoy my life, but not a day has passed that I don't think about the victim, and a brief spell of terror enters my mind, telling me I shouldn't take my chances out here, that the longer I do this the more likely I will be to encounter or become involved in another tragedy.

So 8 days into guide training this May, my boat of trainees (myself being a trainee at the time) happened across the foot entrapment that marked the first death on the Arkansas this season. It was another boat of trainees, and apparently 10-15 minutes before we came across they were doing swim practice at Last Chance/360. A young woman had gone over what looked to be a small pour over after the rapid and I guess somehow got trapped there. We did not enter the scene until probably after she had lost consciousness and her body had gone limp, because she had been flushed out and we saw her helmet as she floated downstream. A little confusion ensued, but her fellow trainees pulled her to the shore, where we proceeded to give CPR for about 45 minutes until an aid car came. We traded off compressions, breaths, and creating a shield around her body to those that passed on the river. The night before, myself and several others in my training class had gotten CPR certified. She was pronounced dead at the hospital. I had never met her, she was very young and supposedly a fun, outdoorsy person. The scariest part of this incident it that it happened on a calm section of river, below a rapid, to someone who knew at least a little bit about the river.

I'm not sure what I expect to get out of sharing this. But it hasn't stopped entering my mind everyday, and while all of us on my boat talked in great detail immediately after, we haven't mentioned it to each other since. Another young first year guide died on the Ark this season as well, and I was putting in at her company the evening she went missing. I love life on the river, and have a great respect for the river, both its beauty and power, but I want to relieve some of this burden of tragedy. If anyone has any thoughts, please feel free to share.
 

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The risk is always present. Stay certified, stay alert, and always be prepared to assist in any situation. Remain calm on the river and realize that being involved or nearly involved in 2 incidents in one year is well above the norm.

The river is a sanctuary and can put you at ease.
 

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The Yin and the Yang is the only true rule in life. Everything has equal amounts of good and bad. The hotter your wife, the more of a pain to you. The more money you have, the more you worry about other stuff. Otherwise the earth would'nt spin so perfectly around the sun. Nobody is making out better than anyone else. Something that can give so much like a river must be able to take an equal amount away as well. I never thought I would see so much death on the river. It's pretty sobering because no matter how much people say "they died doing what they love" or "at least they died on the river" it is all bullshit. Just bullshit people make up to make themselves feel better about it.
 

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I've always known that life is eternal and it shapes my world view. I am convinced this body, when I'm finished with it, will be an old beat up tent that I once lived in. Tents are temporary shelter for those on a journey.

When measured against eternity we are all here for only a moment and I've always lived by the creed that it's better to have been a "has been" than a "never was."

Every mans days are numbered and we in the brevity of our lives are like a breath or the wind so I don't put much confidence in my own plans. This morning is was reading a story about a journey of a couple of despondent guys walking the road to Emmaus. It reminded me again that we never walk alone.
 

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Many people feel bewildered when it comes to the etiquette of death. Because
they don't know what to say or do, they don't do anything. But even
discomfort and ignorance are not good reasons for ignoring friends or
acquaintances at this difficult time.

Flowers and notes cannot be sent too soon, and commercial sympathy cards are
fine if you add a personal note. If you are puzzled about what to say, look
through the cards and find two with messages you like. Buy one card, and
write the message from the other inside. Better yet, just look into your
heart and write the words and feelings you find there.

At the funeral or memorial service, take your behavior cues from the family.
Don't suggest that the deceased is better off, and refrain from imposing
your religious beliefs on the mourners. Remember, grieving is a process that
takes time, and bereaved parents or spouses may not be able to respond to
your sympathy at first.

Follow up on your card or note with a phone call, another note, or social
invitation in a few weeks or months. And no matter how awkward you may feel,
how distant the relative or casual friend, death should never be ignored.
 

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wannabe kayaker
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What are the thoughts that linger? Is it thoughts about what may happen to you on the river? Thoughts about what happens after death? Meaning of life? All of the above?

I used to lead a house church, and a young woman who attended a couple of times committed suicide several months after attending. While I barely knew her, she was someone that I prayed for because I knew a little about how troubled her life was and that she was searching for help. After her death it weighed on me a lot. I still have questions about what happened, and where she is now. I still think about her frequently. I know a lot of my questions won't be answered in this life. However, what happened has changed how I view a lot about life. Before I was a very religious person more concerned about Bible fun facts than broken people. Now I have wrestled with a lot of things in my faith, and have come to understand that God's concern is healing and rescuing broken people. It's a hard world out there, and people are looking for healing and hope. I keep the funeral card in my Bible to remind me to view the world in a more compassionate way. I don't view what happened to her as a good thing, but it has had the result of making me a better person.

Regardless of what your beliefs are, allow this experience to teach you and grow you. In the community on the river there are people who are there for the next thrill, and there are people who approach it with a reverence. The river is beautiful and fun, but even the places that seem safe need to be respected. None of us are getting out of this world alive, but we can enjoy it understanding that to be careless is to move up that departure date. As a guide you can be the hot shot, or you can show people a fun time on the river in a way that reduces your chances of one of them not going home. There are not guarantees, but we can improve our chances.

If the thoughts are about the deeper things in life, ask questions and seek answers.
 

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Unfortunately, I have dealt with death a lot on and off the river. As a raft guide, one of my best kayaking buddies died in a body entrapment. That was 5 years ago and I still miss him every day, especially when on the river! His words of encouragement and advice live on in all the people he encountered.

The only thing I can say for sure is that everyone deals with tragedy differently. It always sucks, whether you know the person or not.

Live each day to the fullest and stay safe on the river!!!
 

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no tengo
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I was on a trip with a fatality. you wont ever forget but you will cope. message me if you (or anyone else) want to talk.
 

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I think that some feelings aren't supposed to get better. Thank you for your courage to post this; I think all guides, myself included need to examine some of the feelings that you are staring in the face right now. We become too accustomed to the river and too cocky. I think it's of the utmost importance to remember these accidents not so we can feel bummed or dwell on it, but so we remember that the river is king, life is short, and to live each day like you're dyin. Examining mortality is the best way to enjoy each day.

Thank you Magneto.

Eric
 

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Talking about it is probably one of the best things you can do. As another poster asked, what are the thoughts that go through your head? What *exactly* bothers you and why?

A bit more than 23 years ago I was on an easy river and about half an hour before we got there two fairly new kayakers got to a low head dam and one of them paddled over and drowned. There were two different things that had slowed my group by about 20 to 30 minutes, and since we had a 17' canoe as a potential rescue platform I've always wondered if we might have been able to make a difference if we had arrived sooner. Of course I've also wondered if any of us might have become victims also, either while attempting a rescue or by paddling over it ourselves. As a new (and young) paddler myself the danger of low head dams seemed very abstract and that 2' drop didn't look like much from upstream; I "knew" they were dangerous, but I'd never even been in a sticky hole at that point. Wondering if you could have helped, or if you might have come close to making your own last mistake can be quite a head game. For a while I thought about it frequently, but I don't remember how long that lasted. It will always have some personal meaning, but after a while it became nothing more than a cautionary tale.

The simple fact is that we all die sooner or later. Most of us will die of illness or old age, and others will have some kind of an accident. Your experience is a reminder that sometimes those accidents happen in ways we don't think are especially dangerous. Take that lesson and use it. Learn as much as you can and work at developing good habits, and share that with others, especially when you see them doing something potentially dangerous.
 

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interesting topic

I once took two years off. I've turned down the exposure to risk significantly since having kids. I've considered whether this is a sport to introduce my kids too? People can make comments about how you can pass going to get milk, etc. The reality is, this sport has higher consequences than any I've ever done with maybe the exception of free solo climbing.

I have unfortunately witnessed several deaths. Every one stays with me and shapped me and who I am from that point forward. One in particular caused me to change careers. Anyway, good luck. I think there are alot of really good people who kayak. They can all give support if you need it.
 

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Lot's of people suffer tragedy. It certainly not only happens on the river. In your case, you are reminded of the tragedy whenever you go boating, which is a shame. But, what if a close relative dies--you have all sorts of reminders in your life about the missing relative.

I think you never get over it--it just becomes part of you. You can get depressed or you can take inspiration to become a better person.

So, join the club of people with tragedy. Each one is personal. Don't forget what happened, but don't sulk too much.
 

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Okay, it hits close to home because there is a common thread. I know this. But what about a complete stranger that dies in the car accident just in front of you in the next intersection? Do you walk away unscathed and just as ignorant as ever? Or do you grieve for him/her just as you would a friend? Probably the former….. Im not trying to dismiss your grief, but try not to turn it into your personal tragedy. Time may not heal all wounds.. but time does allow them to fade.
Personally, the few encounters I have had with grief have left me with more of a zest for life than ever.
We all know that participating in high risk activities can lead to injury or death. But fuck, so can everything else!! Just waking up these days can kill you! Each time you get in your car, ride the subway, etc. You name it, it’s dangerous!!
Yes, we lost some good people this year. I hope their souls find peace. It always shakes the whitewater community…But let it shake you in a good way. Don’t stop rafting or kayaking for the fear of dying. You should live each day like you are dying!! You never know when it’s your time. You never know, a car could plow through your living room and kill you while you are watching American Idol on your couch. Boy that would really be lame!!
 

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This is always hard. The longer you are on rivers and the more you get into the river community the more people you will know who have experienced death. Unfortunatly it is a real aspect of the sport. No one person will be able to tell you what the sport will look like after these events. For some people the risk is not worth it and they hang up the gear. For others there is nothing that will keep them away. I think you will find most of us fit in the middle.

For me, rafting took on a more conservitive line after a friends death. I begin to look at the risk of taking customers down class IV and V rivers and decided it was not worth the benefits. I will still run it with experienced friends, but I do not need to be responsible for inexperienced customers in that type of water. The risk does not outweigh the benefit.

I still think about friends I have lost to the river a lot, but I use that to help me make wise decisioins instead of paralyzing me.
 

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There were two trips I SHOULD have been guiding.....both had fatalities....all within a few years. The first was my first year of (commercially) guiding....I was a trainee at the time and I woke up to a rainy day, I (very lazily) decided to stay home, I wasn't getting paid, I was training. I found out later that day a man on one of the rafts had fallen out, the boat of trainees (that I would have been in) spent 10 minutes chasing the person before catching him and rendering cpr for 45 minutes.

The second hit me a little harder. I was "experienced", running many of the high water trips. One day I had a family issue arise and I had to take the day off....my replacement for the day was a little less experienced, flipped, and a lady didn't make it.

Lots of "what if's". I don't think anything would have changed the outcome of the first incident, but the second one haunts me a little. A few involved in the first incident never fully recovered their love for the river.

I doubt my stories help at all with your current situation...I just wanted to share. I haven't talked about them in 13 years.
 

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Thank you for posting this and giving us the opportunity to think.

Kayaking down Brown's last weekend (oh so sweet) I watched all of you guides interacting and shepherding your clients down the river and thought of the 2 tragedies. What an awesome responsibility you undertake and what a gift you can give them. Take care of yourself and keep up the good work.
 

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I found this to be helpful. I first saw it here: :: View topic - Blog: life, death, risk, and uncertainty

Salman Rushdie in The Ground Beneath Her Feet wrote: Disorientation is loss of the East. Ask any navigator: the east is what you sail by. Lose the east and you lose your bearings, your certainties, your knowledge of what is and what may be, perhaps even your life. Where was that star you followed to that manger? That's right. The east orients. That's the official version. The language says so, and you should never argue with the language.

But let's just suppose. What if the whole deal--orientation, knowing where you are, and so on--what if it's all a scam? What if all of it--home, kinship, the whole enchilada--is just the biggest, most truly global, and centuries oldest piece of brainwashing? Suppose that it's only when you dare to let go that your real life begins? When you're whirling free of the mothership, when you cut your ropes, slip your chain, step off the map, go absent without leave, scram, vamoose, whatever: suppose that it's then, and only then, that you're actually free to act! To lead the life nobody tells you how to live, or when, or why. In which nobody orders you to go forth and die for them, or for god, or comes to get you because you broke one of the rules, or because you're one of those people who are, for reasons which unfortunately you can't be given, simply not allowed. Suppose you've got to go through the feeling of being lost, into the chaos and beyond; you've got to accept the lonliness, the wild panic of losing your moorings, the vertiginous terror of the horizon spinning round and round like the edge of a coin tossed in the air.

You won't do it. Most of you won't do it. The world's head laundry is pretty good at washing brains: Don't jump off that cliff don't walk through that door don't step into that waterfall don't take that chance don't step across that line don't ruffle my sensitivites I'm warning you now don't make me mad you're doing it you're making me mad. You won't have a chance you haven't got a prayer you're finished you're history you're less than nothing, you're dead to me, dead to your whole family your nation your race, everything you ought to love more than life and listen to like your master's voice and follow blindly and bow down before and worship and obey; you're dead, you hear me, forget about it, you stupid bastard. I don't even know your name.

But just imagine you did it. You stepped off the edge of the earth, or through the fatal waterfall, and there it was: the magic valley at the end of the universe, the blessed kingdom of the air. Great music everywhere. You breathe the music, in and out, it's your element now. It feels better than "belonging" in your lungs.

Vina was the first one of us to do it. Ormus jumped second, and I, as usual, brought up the rear. And we can argue all night about why, did we jump or were we pushed, but you can't deny we all did it. We three kings of Disorient were.

And I'm the only one who lived to tell the tale.
 

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I found this to be helpful. I first saw it here: :: View topic - Blog: life, death, risk, and uncertainty

Salman Rushdie in The Ground Beneath Her Feet wrote: Disorientation is loss of the East. Ask any navigator: the east is what you sail by. Lose the east and you lose your bearings, your certainties, your knowledge of what is and what may be, perhaps even your life. Where was that star you followed to that manger? That's right. The east orients. That's the official version. The language says so, and you should never argue with the language.

But let's just suppose. What if the whole deal--orientation, knowing where you are, and so on--what if it's all a scam? What if all of it--home, kinship, the whole enchilada--is just the biggest, most truly global, and centuries oldest piece of brainwashing? Suppose that it's only when you dare to let go that your real life begins? When you're whirling free of the mothership, when you cut your ropes, slip your chain, step off the map, go absent without leave, scram, vamoose, whatever: suppose that it's then, and only then, that you're actually free to act! To lead the life nobody tells you how to live, or when, or why. In which nobody orders you to go forth and die for them, or for god, or comes to get you because you broke one of the rules, or because you're one of those people who are, for reasons which unfortunately you can't be given, simply not allowed. Suppose you've got to go through the feeling of being lost, into the chaos and beyond; you've got to accept the lonliness, the wild panic of losing your moorings, the vertiginous terror of the horizon spinning round and round like the edge of a coin tossed in the air.

You won't do it. Most of you won't do it. The world's head laundry is pretty good at washing brains: Don't jump off that cliff don't walk through that door don't step into that waterfall don't take that chance don't step across that line don't ruffle my sensitivites I'm warning you now don't make me mad you're doing it you're making me mad. You won't have a chance you haven't got a prayer you're finished you're history you're less than nothing, you're dead to me, dead to your whole family your nation your race, everything you ought to love more than life and listen to like your master's voice and follow blindly and bow down before and worship and obey; you're dead, you hear me, forget about it, you stupid bastard. I don't even know your name.

But just imagine you did it. You stepped off the edge of the earth, or through the fatal waterfall, and there it was: the magic valley at the end of the universe, the blessed kingdom of the air. Great music everywhere. You breathe the music, in and out, it's your element now. It feels better than "belonging" in your lungs.

Vina was the first one of us to do it. Ormus jumped second, and I, as usual, brought up the rear. And we can argue all night about why, did we jump or were we pushed, but you can't deny we all did it. We three kings of Disorient were.

And I'm the only one who lived to tell the tale.

uhm...yeah?
 

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Maggie,

It's good that you are engaging a form of peer counseling. This type of dialogue helps us all cope with accidents on the river and it's good you are sharing. You may also want to engage formal counseling as well. There is no shame in getting help from a medical professional. Several members on this list have a great deal of experience with river accidents and fatalities and they take them very seriously. That being said, they do not necessarily have all the skills to help you fully heal. I don't say this to belittle the members of this site or their ability to help, rather to let you know some things may take more than just dialogue with your peer group.

I was on a Dive/Rescue team for 6 years and my team provided great support. We also had access to professional counseling which was also a great resource.
 
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