July 18, 2010

Nefertiti Rescue

Following is an excerpt of a report i wrote of a rescue we performed at Nefertiti at about 24,000cfs.

My patrol/CPAA trip of 16 people was camped at the lower end of Nefertiti Beach on the evening of June 6th.

The C. Kxxxxx group, permit xxxx, 12 people, was camped at the upper end of the same beach with all participants in camp and boats secured.
The A. Axxxx group, permit xxxx, 22 people, with 3 rafts, 7 canoes, and 1 IK, approached Nefertiti rapid from upstream.

About 7pm I was working on cooking dinner while other trip participants were relaxing on the beach. I heard someone say something about an upside down canoe in the river. I immediately dropped what I was doing and started walking toward the river as I observed an upside down canoe coming through the tailwaves of Nefertiti rapid with two swimmers close by. The canoe was closely followed by a second upside down canoe with no swimmers in sight. As I grabbed my life jacket, Bob, a member of my trip, instructed nearby people to untie his boat from a sandstake. I pushed Bobs 14' Avon raft into the eddy current and jumped on as his passenger. As Bob rowed to intercept the canoes I dragged his bowline, now untied and in the river, into the raft. I again scanned the surface of the river trying to account for 4 swimmers. I noticed an upright canoe with two paddlers that had come through the rapid successfully. On the far side of the upright canoe were the two missing swimmers. One of which, Matt, was floating low in the water due a rain coat over his lifejacket, and heavy cotton clothing, including jeans. As we arrived at the first swimmers I asked paddlers in the upright canoe if all the swimmers were accounted for. They responded that nobody was missing and instructed me to grab Matt first. I tried to make eye contact with Matt who appeared to have aspirated river water and was visibly shaken. I pulled Matt into Bobs raft and checked his mental status with a couple quick questions, such as where he was, and the general time of day, as Bob rowed us to the next swimmer. Matt responded to questions well enough that I thought his condition was not currently critical. One of the canoes caught the upstream eddy current and one swimmer where it floated to within range of other people on the beach that secured the canoe and swimmer. I pulled two other swimmers into Bobs raft and secured the swamped canoe to the raft. Bob was trying to row a now very heavy raft while towing a swamped canoe. I instructed one of the rescued swimmers to keep talking to Matt, while one of the other rescued swimmers and I bailed water from the canoe. Once Conner and I bailed most of the water from the canoe Bob made good progress getting us nearly 150' across the quite strong eddy current to the beach.
I made sure that everyone was ok before they walked upstream to where they were camped. The next morning I went to check on the group again where we had a river safety talk including the wearing of rain jackets over life vests. The group blamed the accident on a mis-communication that resulted in under-experienced paddlers in the canoes.

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