Death on the French Broad?

33 views
Skip to first unread message

Milt Aitken

unread,
Nov 13, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/13/95
to
I heard a rumor today about a death of an experienced kayeker on a
fork of the French Broad.

Does anybody know anything?


Chris Bell

unread,
Nov 13, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/13/95
to

Saturday morning, about 11am, Jim Sheppard, a good friend and one of the
founders of the Western Carolina Paddlers, drowned on the West Fork of the
French Broad. If I hadn't been leading the Fontana Ghost Town trip Saturday,
I would have been with Jim on the West Fork. The following discussion is
based on a walk to the scene of the accident I made yesterday with the
person Jim was with when he died, Heath Cowert.

The West Fork of the French Broad is a seldom-paddled tributary located
upstream of Rosman, NC. The take-out, which is located at the point the
West Fork passes under Route 64 (about a mile beyond the point where
the North Fork passes under Route 64), is almost exactly an hour south of
Asheville. The West Fork is solid class IV-V: three V's and numerous IV's.
Jim died in the last major drop on the river, Pinball, a class IV.

Jim was indeed an accomplished kayaker with a good sense of judgement.
He and Heath had just walked around a hole with a stick whipping in the
current at one end. It wasn't a bad hole and the stick was unlikely to be
much of a problem, but why risk it?

Heath slid in downstream of the hole, ran a narrow spot, and caught the eddy
below to boat scout the next drop. Jim slid in, flipped in the narrow spot,
rolled up, but was committed to running the next drop, a big pourover dumping
into a river-wide hole. Jim ran the ideal line -- just to the right of the pourover --
but didn't have much speed and didn't paddle aggressively to build up
speed despite Heath's shouted instructions.

Jim broke through the hole despite his lack of speed, but slowly got sucked
back in by the back wash. In Heath's opinion Jim would have broken free of
the backwash if he had begun to paddle aggressively at that point, but Jim
didn't. After a violent surf on his offside, Jim wet-exited and tried to swim out.
Again he made it to the back wash, took a couple good strokes, and was
sucked back in.

By this time Heath was out of his boat with his throw rope and running
over the boulders to the hole. He couldn't see Jim the entire time, but
estimates that Jim was recirculated at least three times. By the time
Heath got to the hole, Jim had washed free, was unresponsive, and
floating down river. Heath jumped back in his boat and took off in
pursuit, easily punching the hole that caught Jim.

It took about a half mile for Heath to catch up to Jim and get him to
shore. Heath administered CPR for 45-minutes, but to no avail.

If there is a message to be learned from Jim's death, it is that bad
things sometimes happen to good paddlers.
* Ability was not a factor. Jim was an excellent boater with significant
experience on rivers much harder than the West Fork of the French
Broad.
* Cutting edge boating was not a factor. Jim died in a class IV rapid
on a river that, while difficult, was not on the cutting edge of the sport.
* High water was not a factor. The West Fork was running 7" above 0,
a high level but not beyond reason. There were sufficient eddies to
catch to safely scout and the holes weren't too big to punch.
* An invisible hazard was not a factor. Jim knew what a pour over
meant and was in a position to see the hole below. Heath could
see what was coming and encouraged Jim to paddle hard. Jim
was close enough to easily hear Heath's instructions.
* Fitness was not a factor. Jim paddled year-round, usually several
times a week. When he wasn't boating he was mountain biking.
* Risky behavior was not a factor. Jim didn't drink or do drugs while
boating; he was cautious and safety conscious (as indicated by
his decision to walk around the hole with the stick).

I can think of only three possible extenuating circumstances.
* Though Heath had run the West Fork four times, it was Jim's first
time down. Perhaps Jim was hesitant to paddle aggresively
through the hole out of concern for what lay below. However, he
almost at the end of the rapid and presumably would have been
able to see that. Though a possible extenuating circumstance,
based on what I could see at the scene of the accident, I doubt
Jim's behavior was a result of unfamiliarity with the West Fork.
* Jim was paddling a new boat, a New Wave Mongoose. It was
his second day in the boat; he had taken it down the Green
River Narrows the day before -- a much harder river but one with
which Jim was intimately acquainted. Heath said that Jim had
already flipped and rolled several times that day. None of us
who paddle tight, narrow, shallow rocky creeks flip and roll much,
but its not uncommon. Apparently Jim was not feeling 100%
comfortable in his new boat. However, for a boater of Jim's
abilities, to be 90% is to be well beyond the realm of many
boaters plying waters like the West Fork.
* Heath and Jim were paddling in a party of two. With three boaters,
Jim might have not floated so far before CPR could have been
begun, and someone could have paddled out and gotten medical
help. It is unlikely, even if there had been three people, that a
safety rope would have been set. The rapid was not difficult
enough for someone of Jim and Heath's ability to have set up
safety. I doubt having three boaters would have changed the
outcome, though it might have.

Knowing Jim and his aggresive paddling style, I am lead to conclude
that he either suffered a heart attack or hit his head and became dazed
after his flip and roll.

Jim's death was the result of an unfortunate accident. Many of his
friends have called it a freak accident, and in a sense, it was. I hesitate
to think of it that way, however. Any time we get in a boat we knowingly
enter a biozone hazardous to human life. Unless you and your loved
one's can deal with the consequences, you shouldn't be getting in your
boat in the first place. Jim packed an enormous amount of living in his
53 years. If he hadn't been willing to get in his boat, he wouldn't have
been Jim.

Jim leaves three grown children and friends around the country. His
funeral will be held at 11 am Tuesday, 11/14 at his son Mark's church:
The Pentacostal Holiness Church, 229 Washington Street, Hendersonville,
NC. Email me if you need directions.

I am compiling a memorial to Jim for publication in next week's issue of
Messing About, the newsletter of the club he helped found. Send me any
recollections, poems, photographs, etc. you wish included ASAP (i.e,
this afternoon).

In addition, the Western Carolina Paddlers will be taking up a collection
to buy a wind chime to place in his memory at the scene of his accident.
We plan to engrave his name along with the names of his many friends
on it. If you want your name included, please send me a small contribution
(a dollar or two -- enough to engrave your name) and your name as you
wish it to appear on the wind chime.

-- Chris


Leland Davis

unread,
Nov 13, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/13/95
to
In <48837v$5...@balsam.unca.edu> be...@unca.edu writes:

> the last major drop on the river, Pinball, a class IV.

> Heath slid in downstream of the hole, ran a narrow spot, and caught the eddy
> below to boat scout the next drop. Jim slid in, flipped in the narrow spot,
> rolled up, but was committed to running the next drop, a big pourover dumping
> into a river-wide hole. Jim ran the ideal line -- just to the right of the
> pourover -- but didn't have much speed and didn't paddle aggressively to

> build up speed...

i have a really good mental picture of this, because i have seen the exact same
thing happen before. on a trip down the west fork in september at about the
same level, i watched the same thing happen to another boater. luckily the
paddler i was with managed to swim out of the hole after a few recirculations
and make it to shore. his paddle was lost, and his boat was broken. even with
two of us it was a long way before we were able to get the boat out.

BE CAREFUL!!

this is a much worse spot than it appears. the entrance drop that flipped
these people is tiny (maybe 2 ft) and really hard to read. the eddies below it
are small enough that if you have to roll you will miss them. the pourover,
which is slightly left of center, looks like an easy boof and is very tempting.
the hole at the bottom WILL NOT release a boat. the paddler i watched surf this
was on his onside and surfed for AT LEAST 30 seconds before he swam out of the
boat. although the rapid eases up after 2 more drops or so, it is a long way
before there is a pool, or even an eddy big enough to effectively rescue in.
below the rapid on river left there is another channel that breaks off which is
clogged with logs and debris. after the three drops above, this one does not
look that bad at all, but is dangerous. the walk around the tree (which can be
run, but not a good idea) is a great opportunity to scout this rapid.

jim sheppard was a rock solid paddler. this accident is a good reminder that
no matter how good or prepared you are, things can go wrong. it is also an
indication that this spot demands respect. please be careful

leland

Milt Aitken

unread,
Nov 13, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/13/95
to
Thanks for the response, Chris. I was hoping that it was a bogus rumor. Too
bad.

I just met Jim when we paddled Section 4 two or three weeks ago. He was
indeed a good paddler. He was testing out a borrowed boat. I guess he chose
to buy the Mongoose after that triip.

I enjoyed his company and the presence of his skills on the trip. I'm sure
his spirit will still be out there on the water with us.

Chris Bell

unread,
Nov 14, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/14/95
to
be...@unca.edu (Chris Bell) wrote:
>Saturday morning, about 11am, Jim Sheppard, a good friend and one of the
>founders of the Western Carolina Paddlers, drowned on the West Fork of the
>French Broad. If I hadn't been leading the Fontana Ghost Town trip Saturday,
>I would have been with Jim on the West Fork. The following discussion is
>based on a walk to the scene of the accident I made yesterday with the
>person Jim was with when he died, Heath Cowert.

Thanks to all of you who have been sharing your thoughts with me. I just got
back from Jim's funeral; I think what we all should keep in mind is that Jim
died in one of the most beautiful spots on earth while enjoying a day with a
good friend doing what he loved to do best. Jim understood the risks he was
taking and took them willingly and with full knowledge. During the service I
thought, "if there is a heaven, I expect the first person I meet coming
through the pearly gates will be Jim, who'll be saying, 'What took you? We
GOT to do some boating...you won't BELIEVE the water they got up here!'"

-- Chris

PS If any of you wants a copy of my description of Jim's death for
republication in a club newsletter, please email me. I have a slightly
edited copy of what I posted to the net along with additional observations
from Slim Ray (who also spoke to Heath). I'll also be happy to mail a
complementary copy of the club newsletter devoted to Jim to anyone
who sends me their snail-mail address.

csh...@mindspring.com

unread,
Nov 15, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/15/95
to
Milt Aitken <mai...@mindspring.com> wrote:

I too was on the section IV trip a few weeks ago when Jim was trying
out the Mongoose. He was, as so many people on the river are, a fine
person and an excellent boater. He boated with a friendly confidence
that belied the fact that we was in such control of his craft.

I'm sorry I'll not enjoy his company on the river again...

Chris

Chris Bell

unread,
Nov 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/16/95
to
The following article will appear in the November 1995 issue of
"Messing About," the newsletter of the Western Carolina Paddlers.
Permission to reprint it is given as long as the authors and "Messing
About" are credited. If you would like a complementary copy of
the November issue of "Messing About," email me your snail mail
address and I'll send one to you when they are mailed at the end of
the month.

-- Chris


Drowning on the West Fork of the French Broad River
by Chris Bell, Leland Davis and Slim Ray

Saturday November 11th, about 11am, Jim Sheppard, a good


friend and one of the founders of the Western Carolina Paddlers,
drowned on the West Fork of the French Broad. If I hadn't been

leading the Fontana Lake Ghost Town trip Saturday, I would have


been with Jim on the West Fork. The following discussion is based
on a walk to the scene of the accident I made yesterday with the

person Jim was with when he died, Heath Cowart.


The West Fork of the French Broad is a seldom-paddled
tributary located upstream of Rosman, NC. The take-out, which is
located at the point the West Fork passes under Route 64 (about a
mile beyond the point where the North Fork passes under Route 64),
is almost exactly an hour south of Asheville. The West Fork is

solid class IV-V: three V's and a several IV's. Jim died in the


last major drop on the river, Pinball, a class IV.
Jim was indeed an accomplished kayaker with a good sense of
judgement. He and Heath had just walked around a hole with a stick
whipping in the current at one end. It wasn't a bad hole and the
stick was unlikely to be much of a problem, but why risk it?

Heath slid in downstream of the hole, ferried across the
stream, and caught the eddy below to boat scout the next drop. Jim
slid in, flipped while ferrying, rolled up, but was committed to


running the next drop, a big pourover dumping into a river-wide
hole. Jim ran the ideal line -- just to the right of the pourover
-- but didn't have much speed and didn't paddle aggressively to
build up speed despite Heath's shouted instructions.

For those of us who know Jim, this lack of aggressive paddling
is a crucial sign that something was wrong for it is not in Jim's
character to paddle passively.


Jim broke through the hole despite his lack of speed, but
slowly got sucked back in by the back wash. In Heath's opinion Jim
would have broken free of the backwash if he had begun to paddle
aggressively at that point, but Jim didn't. After a violent surf
on his offside, Jim wet-exited and tried to swim out. Again he
made it to the back wash, took a couple good strokes, and was
sucked back in.
By this time Heath was out of his boat with his throw rope and
running over the boulders to the hole. He couldn't see Jim the
entire time, but estimates that Jim was recirculated at least three
times. By the time Heath got to the hole, Jim had washed free, was
unresponsive, and floating down river. Heath jumped back in his
boat and took off in pursuit, easily punching the hole that caught
Jim.
It took about a half mile for Heath to catch up to Jim and get
him to shore. Heath administered CPR for 45-minutes, but to no
avail.
If there is a message to be learned from Jim's death, it is

that bad things sometimes happen to good paddlers:


* Ability was not a factor. Jim was an excellent boater with
significant experience on rivers much harder than the West
Fork of the French Broad.
* Cutting edge boating was not a factor. Jim died in a class IV
rapid on a river that, while difficult, was not on the cutting
edge of the sport.
* High water was not a factor. The West Fork was running 7"
above 0, a high level but not beyond reason. There were
sufficient eddies to catch to safely scout and the holes
weren't too big to punch.
* An invisible hazard was not a factor. Jim knew what a pour
over meant and was in a position to see the hole below. Heath
could see what was coming and encouraged Jim to paddle hard.
Jim was close enough to easily hear Heath's instructions.
* Fitness was not a factor. Jim paddled year-round, usually
several times a week. When he wasn't boating he was mountain
biking.
* Risky behavior was not a factor. Jim didn't drink or do drugs
while boating; he was cautious and safety conscious (as
indicated by his decision to walk around the hole with the
stick).

I can think of only four possible extenuating circumstances, each
of which, by themselves, seem quite minor in comparison to the
tragedy which followed:


* Though Heath had run the West Fork four times, it was Jim's
first time down. Perhaps Jim was hesitant to paddle

aggressively through the hole out of concern for what lay


below. However, he almost at the end of the rapid and
presumably would have been able to see that. Though a
possible extenuating circumstance, based on what I could see
at the scene of the accident, I doubt Jim's behavior was a
result of unfamiliarity with the West Fork.

* Jim was paddling a new boat, a New Wave Mongoose. Although
reports vary as to how often Jim had paddled a Mongoose, he
hadn't paddled one very often. We know for sure that he had
taken his new boat down the Green River Narrows the day before


-- a much harder river but one with which Jim was intimately
acquainted. Heath said that Jim had already flipped and
rolled several times that day. None of us who paddle tight,
narrow, shallow rocky creeks flip and roll much, but its not
uncommon. Apparently Jim was not feeling 100% comfortable in
his new boat. However, for a boater of Jim's abilities, to be
90% is to be well beyond the realm of many boaters plying
waters like the West Fork.
* Heath and Jim were paddling in a party of two. With three
boaters, Jim might have not floated so far before CPR could
have been begun, and someone could have paddled out and gotten
medical help. It is unlikely, even if there had been three
people, that a safety rope would have been set. The rapid was
not difficult enough for someone of Jim and Heath's ability to
have set up safety. I doubt having three boaters would have
changed the outcome, though it might have.

* The day was very cold, cold enough to snow the afternoon of
Jim's accident, and it was raining while Jim and Heath were on
the water. Although we'll never know, perhaps the combination
of cold air and water, together with his several rolls, had
weakened Jim.

Knowing Jim and his aggressive paddling style, I am lead to
conclude that something happened about the time he flipped and
rolled. Perhaps he hit his head, perhaps the cold water dazed him,
or perhaps he suffered a medical emergency, like a heart attack.
We'll never know, but it was totally unlike Jim to drift passively
into a hole, and even more unlike him not to aggressively power his
way on through after reaching the backwash.


Jim's death was the result of an unfortunate accident. Many
of his friends have called it a freak accident, and in a sense, it
was. I hesitate to think of it that way, however. Any time we get
in a boat we knowingly enter a biozone hazardous to human life.
Unless you and your loved one's can deal with the consequences, you
shouldn't be getting in your boat in the first place. Jim packed
an enormous amount of living in his 53 years. If he hadn't been
willing to get in his boat, he wouldn't have been Jim.

Jim leaves three grown children, three grandchildren, and


friends around the country. His funeral will be held at 11 am

Tuesday, 11/14 at The Pentecostal Holiness Church, 229 Washington


Street, Hendersonville, NC. Email me if you need directions.

I am compiling a memorial to Jim for publication in next issue


of Messing About, the newsletter of the club he helped found. Send
me any recollections, poems, photographs, etc. you wish included

ASAP.
In addition, the Western Carolina Paddlers is taking up


a collection to buy a wind chime to place in his memory at the

scene of his accident. We plan to engrave his name on it, along
with the names of his many friends. If you want your name


included, please send me a small contribution (a dollar or two --
enough to engrave your name) and your name as you wish it to appear
on the wind chime.

-- Chris Bell
7 Garden Terrace
Asheville, NC 28804


I have a really good mental picture of this, because I have
seen the exact same thing happen before. On a trip down the West
Fork in September at about the same level, I watched the same thing
happen to another boater. Luckily the paddler I was with managed


to swim out of the hole after a few recirculations and make it to

shore. His paddle was lost, and his boat was broken. Even


with two of us it was a long way before we were able to get the
boat out.

BE CAREFUL!! this is a much worse spot than it appears. The


entrance drop that flipped these people is tiny (maybe 2 ft) and

really hard to read. The eddies below it are small enough that if
you have to roll you will miss them. The pourover, which is


slightly left of center, looks like an easy boof and is very
tempting.

The hole at the bottom WILL NOT release a boat. The paddler
I watched surf this was on his onside and surfed for AT LEAST 30
seconds before he swam out of the boat. Although the rapid eases


up after 2 more drops or so, it is a long way before there is a
pool, or even an eddy big enough to effectively rescue in.

Below the rapid on river left there is another channel that
breaks off which is clogged with logs and debris. After the three


drops above, this one does not look that bad at all, but is

dangerous. The walk around the tree (which can be run, but not a


good idea) is a great opportunity to scout this rapid.

Jim Sheppard was a rock solid paddler. This accident is a


good reminder that no matter how good or prepared you are, things

can go wrong. It is also an indication that this spot demands
respect. Please be careful.

-- leland


Jim Sheppard, 53, a kayaker from Hendersonville, NC, drowned
November 11th on the West Fork of the French Broad River. Sheppard
was an expert paddler with solid boating skills and extensive
experience on Appalachian rivers, including the Green Narrows the
day before. He flipped and drowned in a hole near the end of the
run, and although his paddling partner, Heath Cowart, was able to
get him over to the bank and administer CPR, he was unable to
revive him.
Cowart and Sheppard put on the West Fork in the late morning.
The water was high (7", high but not flooding) after a stormy
night. Cowart rates the run Class V, and although short (30 min),
access to this section of the river, near Rosman, NC, is limited.
Near the start the run were three large sliding drops which the
pair negotiated without problems.
The next rapid, Pinball, is somewhat further down. It is a
rock garden about 100 yards long which, under normal conditions, is
often eddy scouted. On this day, however, the eddies were small,
which necessitated extra caution. A recent strainer blocked one of
the eddies, so the pair got out of their boats and walked down to
the next eddy, about halfway down the rapid. The next move
required a ferry across the river, a move Cowart described
as"straight forward." Cowart made the ferry without incident, then
got out of his boat to scout the last drop. Sheppard flipped
during his ferry and rolled.
Sheppard's roll put him just above the last drop, and a nasty
hole. His choices were to either paddle hard for the eddy, which
seemed possible to Cowart, or to turn and power through the hole.
He did neither. Cowart, standing on the bank, yelled for Jim to
"paddle, paddle, paddle!" but Jim didn't seem to hear him. He
turned and went over the drop, hit the hole with little speed, and
was sucked back in, flipping immediately. His companion had
meanwhile grabbed his rope and started toward him, but Sheppard,
who had by this time recirculated 2-3 times, washed out of the
hole.
Cowart quickly retraced his steps, got in his boat, and ran
the drop, powering through the hole that had just taken his
partner. The current below the drop was swift and powerful but
there were no more drops. After a quarter mile or so Cowart caught
up with Sheppard's boat, and was beginning to think his companion
had gotten out of the water when he saw something floating
downstream. It was Sheppard, now floating face down. Cowart
wrenched him onto his front deck, then popped his skirt and swam
the blue, unresponsive Sheppard to shore, where he began CPR. He
continued for 45 minutes or so, then ran to a nearby farmhouse and
summoned EMS. The paramedics soon arrived and continued,
unsuccessfully, to revive Sheppard.

Comments:
Chris Bell has made an excellent analysis, so I see no need to
reiterate the points he has already made. A third boater would
have been a big help, although two-boat parties on this kind of
water are not unusual, and it's doubtful that it would have
affected the outcome.
It is also possible that Jim hit his head, either while in the
hole or during his brief flip. He did have facial contusions and
a damaged spot on his helmet. However, we don't know this for
sure. The helmet damage could have been from an earlier run and
the contusions could have happened during his swim. We do know
that he seemed unresponsive to Cowart's shouted instructions, and
that his behavior going over the drop and in the hole was unlike
Jim's aggressive paddling style.
Medical problems can't be ruled out either, but so far they
are pure speculation. Leland Davis's observations about a similar
mishap earlier in the year show that the hole was worse than it
looked.
The only other point might be Jim's age and the way he was
dressed. In spite of his general level of fitness, an over-forty
body just doesn't tolerate a long swim in cold water like a younger
one. There have been a couple of other instances where older
paddlers haven't made a swim that a younger one might have. The
day was cold with snow flurries, and the water quite frigid. Jim
had on a dry top, but really wasn't dressed for a swim. The
debilitating effect of cold water can't be overstressed, and
over-forty paddlers need to get into the habit over overdressing
in anticipation for a swim, even though (or maybe because) experts
seldom do it.

-- Slim

LarryGross

unread,
Nov 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/16/95
to
On the cause of death... was an autopsy performed?


Chris Bell

unread,
Nov 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/16/95
to
LarryGross <lgr...@l10server.nswc.navy.mil> wrote:
> On the cause of death... was an autopsy performed?

Not to my knowledge.

-- Chris

Kevin Sulewski

unread,
Nov 17, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/17/95
to

In addition to the wind chime memorial, can I suggest that a white cross be
painted on the rocks near the site of the accident. This would serve as
warning that a fatality occured at this location. It might also
influence people to take additional caution when running the drop or help
someone decide to portage that particular rapid.

\
\ O
\_________________\/ )_____________/
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~\~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
\

Kevin R. Sulewski

mars...@angst.zko.dec.com

unread,
Nov 18, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/18/95
to
Chris Bell's excellent write up mentions that the temperatures
were chilly. Is it possible that hypothermia was a contributing
factor? Disorientation and slow responses are one of the major
signs.

Chris Marshall


Keith Beck

unread,
Nov 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/20/95
to LKD...@uncavx.unca.edu
LKD...@UNCAVX.unca.edu (Leland Davis) wrote:
>
>
>maybe the shock of the cold water when he rolled or hypothermia once he was out
>of the boat could have been a factor, but the temperature was still moderate at
>11:00 in the morning. i was no more than 20 miles away (probably a lot
>closer) and the temperature was in the 50's until about 12:30 or 1:00. it was
>snowing by three, though. slim ray's analysis mentions that he was not dressed
>well enough for a long swim in water that cold, which very possibly could have
>been a factor. the bottom line is that we will never really know why this
>accident occured.


Being over 40 myself and having a number of paddling friends who are
also, I fully agree with the comments about preparing for cold. It's
always easy to cool off if you get warm. When you get a little tired,
the cold is really draining, and the increased metabolic demands from a
day of being a little colder than you need to be take a toll on your
glycogen stores. If you then get into a stressful situation you can
quickly go from being marginally compensated to being decompensated. The
brain starts working less well, reaction time is longer, you tend to
start paddling tentatively, less reserves are available for the bursts of
energy needed to deal with the unforeseen. If you have been chilly for a
while, glycogen, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol are depleted
more rapidly than if you had been warm.

Temps in the 50s are plenty low enough to get into trouble: not
necessarily clincal hypothermia, but slower reactions, less immediate
stress response.

To continue the discussion, let's suppose that a similar accident had
happened, but the paddler was pulled out still breathing, but could not
continue paddling (separated shoulder, head injury, etc.). With
suboptimal clothing, a bivouac while waiting for evacuation would lead
rapidly to serious hypothermia. In a full drysuit, waiting for help
would be much more easily endured. To say nothing of the occasional
unplanned overnight bivouac.

Matabolic rate just declines with age, as does cortisol and adrenergic
responsiveness under stress. Us older guys (and everyone for that
matter) should wear more and eat more when it gets cold. The excellent
posting by Chris Bell mentioned the inherent risk of venturing into an
inhospitable biozone. Having a little extra margin of safety when that
zone is cold is easy to accomplish.

As to the comment that we will never know what happened, that is
unfortunate. In many jurisdictions, an unexplained traumatic death would
mandate an autopsy. That could possibly tell us some things about a
situation such as this.

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation for the thorough and
caring discussions of this tragedy by several who felt the loss most
personally.


Charles Foster

unread,
Nov 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/20/95
to

In article <Pine.HPP.3.91.951117...@fhs.csu.McMaster.CA>, Kevin Sulewski <sule...@fhs.csu.McMaster.CA> writes:
|>
|>In addition to the wind chime memorial, can I suggest that a white cross be
|>painted on the rocks near the site of the accident. This would serve as
|>warning that a fatality occured at this location. It might also
|>influence people to take additional caution when running the drop or help
|>someone decide to portage that particular rapid.

While I agree that this death was a very sad event I feel a non-permanent
memorial such as the proposed windchime is far more appropriate than
painting a cross on river-side rocks.

However well intentioned such an act might be, painting river rocks is
grafitti, plain and simple.

--
Charles...@trw.com

Leland Davis

unread,
Nov 21, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/21/95
to
>Temps in the 50s are plenty low enough to get into trouble: not
>necessarily clincal hypothermia, but slower reactions, less immediate
>stress response.

>To continue the discussion, let's suppose that a similar accident had
>happened, but the paddler was pulled out still breathing, but could not
>continue paddling (separated shoulder, head injury, etc.). With
>suboptimal clothing, a bivouac while waiting for evacuation would lead
>rapidly to serious hypothermia. In a full drysuit, waiting for help
>would be much more easily endured. To say nothing of the occasional
>unplanned overnight bivouac.

i never said it was ok not to dress warmly when you paddle. if you read
carefully, slim's analysis says only that jim was not dressed well enough for a
long swim. i doubt that a paddler with well over a decade of experience
paddling in the winter around here would not be dressed warmly enough for
regular paddling (without swims). your example of an unplanned bivouac is not
a valid one here, since the west fork is a run that takes only 30 minutes or
so, and they put on at 11:00 in the morning. you could crawl out of there
before it got dark if you had to, and there is certainly time for a paddling
partner to get help and return within an hour or two. if you wear a full
drysuit when it's 50 out, you're asking for a sweat fest and are in as much
danger from dehydration slowing you down as you would be from hypothermia if
you didn't wear it. i've paddled with jim when it was in the 50s before, and
he seemed anything but slow to me!
i'm not inclined to believe that cold was a big factor (at least not
before he was out of the boat), and am far more inclined toward thinking that
he must have hit his head. i also feel that the new boat played a bigger part
than most people are saying. a week or two before the accident jim was telling
me how spoiled he was from paddling his acrobat 270. i think his familiarity
with a low volume stern combined with the fact that the hole doesn't look
nearly as bad as it is may have caused him to paddle less than he needed to to
escape the hole in the mongoose. i haven't had the chance to talk with heath
at any length about what happened, though, and i think that might help. if i
learn any more, i will certainly post.

leland


ps. please do not get the mistaken impression that i don't feel it is
important to dress warmly for paddling in the winter, or to dress for every
river trip as if you are planning to swim. i'm only saying that while improper
dress could have worsened this situation, i don't think it was the original
cause of _this_ accident.

Sea-Bass Sears

unread,
Nov 21, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/21/95
to
My news feed is really bad these days. Could someone please repost the
details of this accident or mail them straight to me. Thanks.

--
Sea-Bass Sears -- DoD #516, BMW R100S -- Interface Builders
74041...@compuserve.com -- AWA, IRU -- Ketchum, ID.

Savage Yak

unread,
Nov 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/25/95
to
Jim Sheppard from Henderson, NC died in the Pinball section of the West
Fork. While experienced, a small mistake was made, and he found himself in
a hole, which he remained in until unconsious. CPR was administered, but
was unsuccessfull.

Jim was a good freind, and I'm sorry he's no longer with us, but he died
doing something he loved and lived for.

I'm sorry to post this.

Corran Addison

Savage Yak

unread,
Nov 27, 1995, 3:00:00 AM11/27/95
to
Jim got recurculated in the hole until he had lost consiousness. At this
point he washed out, and floted a half mile before he was beached. The
cold factor is nominal as he was in the hole.

The rumers are afire on this. Jim is essentially a upper level paddler
with lots of experience, and a tendency to make some mistakes. This was
one, and though the river was not too difficuld, resulted in his death.
Many factors could be dragged into this, but the most important factor is
that he was off line.

Jim died doing what he loved to do. He was having the time of his life all
the way to the end. Why he died is not important, but he will always be
boating with me from here on out.

Corran Addison

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages