Whitewater
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news Sad day on the Big Sandy
Forum: BoaterTalk
KenG
I am not a regular and usually just read thru once in a while...but I had hoped my first post wouldn't go something like this.  There was a terrible accident on the Big Sandy this afternoon; while to my knowledge no body has been recovered yet, but it was in all probability a fatality at Big Splat.  I don't know his full name for certain, but it was Jeff (maybe Mayfield or somthing similar ?).  Extremely sad in that what I understood to be his girlfriend and young son had hiked down to Big Splat and were there as well.  Hopefully, Charlie or someone can post soon with more clear details (if they can be gathered) as we arived on the scene at about the 10-15 min point, having been notified above by a boater running up the trail.  Several folks were already trying to think of new things to do, but it wasn't looking good.  The boat had washed down and some gear (helmet and sprayskirt) as well.

No sign of Jeff anywhere, as people dragged ropes, looked under the undercuts, and fished around at the base of Splat rock with paddles and sticks.  Plenty of people and gear on hand, but there was just no obvious, even half safe, new tactic to try.  His paddle was found snapped in half.  It did seem clear from the somewhat thin second hand information at the time that Jeff had trouble up above and was already swimming by the time he got to the falls.  As (from what I heard) he was very familiar with the river/rapid, a theory on the scene was that his paddle may have broken above in the horseshoe drop, thus the swim, which unfortunately took him over to the right side of Splat.  Though the river was at 5' 8" (sorta low) he was no where to be seen; but I understand that river right side to be terribly undercut.  

While we felt bad about leaving the scene (and everyone was feeling so helpless since unlike other potential rescues, where you might have a clear task to focus on, or sight of the body etc) we decided a couple of us should go down stream to look for him, on the very unlikely chance that he had somehow slipped downstream undetected (he had on a bright blue drysuit).  I first found his helmet behind a rock maybe a couple hundred yards down stream.  The buckle was broken, the rim ripped from rocks and there was a very obvious mark in the forehead area where there had been a blow.

There was a brief moment of optimism when I spotted something blue in the water a couple hundred yards laters, but it turned out to be his blue Prijon (Toronado I think, or similar), pinned upside down.  It was fairly easily recovered by a couple of us and we put it in plain sight on river right, secured to a tree at the base of the (creek name?) 50' falls/cascades.  It had a crumpled nose from a piton, which could have been above Splat or after paddler and boater separated.

This was a very, very sad day on the Sandy, which was otherwise a beautiful Spring day.  None of us could seem to wipe away the image of his girlfriend and son, huddled grieving on the overlook rocks.  The authorities managed to get there fairly quickly I understand and they were already stationed at the take out when we arrived.  I hope I didn't screw up any of the 'facts' as I understood them.  To all his boating buddies I don't know what to say, other than I am truly sorry for your loss, and his family's tragic loss.   I didn't catch the name of his boating buddy, nor do I know if he is a BT person, but maybe he'll have more facts.  They were obviously very skilled, experienced boaters and it looks like just a terrible accident at a very unforgiving rapid, probably caused by a broken paddle above the main drop.
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question How is this OT?!?!?!?!?!? <NT> insanecreeker New
sad Sorry to hear that. Bradley New
sad Condolences <NT> P1PN8EZ New
more Big Sandy first on scene kayakermipaul New
sad Very sorry to hear that. <NT> CintiBud New
sad This is very sad to hear. <NT> frothmonster New