River Incident Report #977029

Date of Incident: October 29, 1997
River: Green
Section of River: Labyrinth Canyon
Location on River: Potato Bottom
Relative Flow: Low
Gage Reading: 6,490 cubic feet per second
Difficulty: Flat Water
Type of Incident: Involuntary Swimming
Injuries: Mild Hypothermia
Type of Trip: Private
Type of Boat: N/A

At 14:30 a 16 year old boy, a member of a biking trip traveling on the White Rim Road, jumped into the Green River with the intention of a brief swim. His entry was at Mile 36.2 in Potato Bottom at which place the main current of the river is on the left (his) bank and was flowing at a rate of about three miles per hour. He was attired only in swimming trunks. The temperature of the water was 60 degrees, and that of the air was 45, with the air temperature predicted to drop into the 30's that night. The lad was swept downstream and he extricated himself on the opposite bank near Mile 34.2 after a two mile swim. He was without means of rejoining his group and of protecting himself from the cold. The incident was reported to a passing commercial outfitter who contacted Park Rangers at 16:56 by a cellular telephone, and a rescue operation was initiated. It was necessary to bring a canoe from Moab which entailed driving over the rough road and steep grades of Hardscrabble Hill. Thus, the operation was executed after dark, and the victim was reached at 20:24. He was treated for hypothermia and transported back to his friends.

In Retrospect
Never jump or dive into an unknown or untested body of water. This adage is particularly applicable to muddy rivers where the bottoms cannot be seen and the danger of striking submerged rocks or logs exist, or as in this instance, of encountering a current too strong to swim against.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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