River Incident Report #90R007

Date of Incident: July 6, 1990
River: Colorado
Section of River: Cataract Canyon
Location on River: Big Drop One
Relative Flow: Low
Gage Reading: 7,150 cubic feet per second
Difficulty: Class III
Type of Incident: Fall Overboard and Cut by Propeller
Injuries: Cut Buttocks, Thigh, and Ankle
Type of Trip: Commercial
Type of Boat: 2½-Tube J-Rig

At 11:30 a woman and her husband, were bounced from the J-Rig in which they were passengers by the tail waves of Big Drop One (Mile 202.7). The woman was swept under the boat and cut by its motor which was running at full speed. The boatman positioned his craft downstream from the swimmers while the husband assisted the woman to shore. She was there bandaged, placed on a backboard, and loaded onto the boat from which she had fallen. All passengers had been instructed to hold on firmly with both hands and to give the boatman the universal sign if somebody fell overboard. Following a complex shuttling of the group's other boats and passengers, the J-Rig proceeded through the remaining rapids into the flat water of the Powell Reservoir at 12:20.

The J-Rig contacted a small boat capable of high speed at Rock Creek in Narrow Canyon (Mile 172.6) at 16:30. This craft carried news of the accident to the Park Ranger at Hite, Utah, shortening the length of time in waiting for a helicopter to transport the victim to a hospital.

In Retrospect
A secure position is necessary for passengers who are riding in rough water. The plunge into the river would not have occurred had the victim complied with instructions to hold tight. The injuries were incurred because the boatman was not immediately aware that passengers were overboard so he could turn off the motor. The second or two which may elapse from when one falls in the river until the boat is on top of him allow little time for a boatman to react; any signal given must be instantaneous.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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