River Incident Report #955057

Date of Incident: June 7,1995
River: Green
Section of River: Labyrinth Canyon
Location on River: Fort Bottom
Relative Flow: High
Gage Reading: 24,600 cubic feet per second
Difficulty: Flat Water
Type of Incident: Capsize and Fire
Injuries: Hypothermia and Burns
Type of Trip: Private
Type of Boat: Canoe

Description
A father and daughter, ages 47 and 18, embarked at the Mineral Bottom Boat Ramp (Mile 55.4) on June 7, after receiving a safety lecture from the outfitter from whom their equipment was rented. The father assessed his ability as "lower intermediate." The temperature extremes at The Island In The Sky were 72 and 46 degrees, accompanied by high winds; the temperature of the Green River was about 55 degrees. At 14:30 the canoe turned sideways in the strong wind-caused waves and capsized. The two boaters were rolled into the river without life jackets near Mile 41.0 in Fort Bottom. The daughter grabbed a gear bag for floatation and swam to the west bank of the river; fortunately the bag was the one containing her equipment and she set up a camp. The father was swept to the east bank where he had difficulty in climbing ashore and spent a long time in the water. The two established visual and verbal contact at 17:30, and at 21:00 the father said he was cold and was building a fire. Wishing to be as close to his daughter as possible, he did this in dense tamarisk near the river. The daughter woke at 22:30 to see a huge wildland fire on the east bank of the river. The fire eventually burned for two miles around Fort Bottom and covered 120 acres.

Rangers detected smoke at The Island In The Sky during the wee hours of June 8, and shortly after light were dispatched to locate the fire. A ranger in a boat found the daughter at 09:00, and learned of the accident. The father was found at 09:27 (in Fort Bottom at Mile 40.0), soaking his extremities in the river to ease pain. Forty five percent of his body was covered with second degree burns. A medical helicopter was summoned from Grand Junction, Colorado, at 09:31, and at 10:55 the victim was transported to the hospital. He lived to tell the story.

In Retrospect
1) Don't strike matches in a tinder box.
2) When high winds whip up waves on flat water so you are having difficulty in controlling your canoe, you are essentially in white water. At the least don your life jacket, and consider pulling ashore.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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