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Eagle69

Scout Drowned Canoeing in Arkansas

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Last weekend a Troop from Little Rock was canoneing on the Caddo River and a canoe with two scouts overturned, one was rescued and the other was not. The one that wasn't was found later trapped under the canoe which was pinned under water. From what I have heard everything was done by the book and there was no negligence. We had a ton of rain here last weekend and the rivers were running full. How tragic for all involved.

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I'm not sure what the "book" says, but I made the mistake about 25 years ago of doing a float trip after it rained. It was a disaster all the way around. My older brother and his wife's canoe was impaled on a submerged log within about 300 feet of where we put in. They had to ride in our other canoes. I watched a 75 foot cottonwood tree at a bend in the river have its roots washed out and fall across the river on top of about a dozen canoes. My sister walked out on a log jam to aid a small child, had the logs roll and almost pull her under. Getting on the river after a ton of rain probably isn't by the book. I'll never do it again.

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My worst nightmare is to have to call a parent after a scout outing and tell them that their son isn't coming home.

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Yah, mine too jr56. I wonder how many troops have protocols for this? One troop I know that has its act together has the scout leader call the COR, who then goes with the IH to personally notify the parents. Statistically, this might be more likely to be used to notify the family of an adult's death on a trip. They also have a very well thought-out in-troop accident review process.

 

In many rivers, "strainers" like the one described are da most serious hazards. Even fairly mild current can pin a canoe or a person underwater against a tree. I wonder how many troops are aware of the hazard? I wonder how many carry ropes and saws and know how to do a quick extraction? The problem with Safetly afloat sometimes is that it seems generic for a flat, warm Texas lake.

 

But this was different. This river came up fast with the rainfall, so that by midday Saturday it was runnin' at 20 times average flow volume. Perhaps a dam release too? This troop might have been caught in the sudden rise, or otherwise been unaware that a river is very different with different amounts of water in it, eh? They probably didn't understand how the river behaved with rain runoff.

 

See http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ar/nwis/uv/?site_no=07359610&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060

 

(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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As a reminder dear friends, when going on the water...

 

1. study the weather

2. check with local outfitters as to rivers "rise rates"

(USGS has charts on the internet you can look at to 'see' how the river historically behaves after or during a storm).

3. Have a plan to get off the river and wait it out...

4. PFDs always and training... to 'leave' your boat, hold an up-river gunnel (if it is safe) and float down feet first.

5.Avoid strainers-always.

6.Train to do rescues. have throw lines, ropes, pulleys, 'biners, and a minimum of 150 ft of rescue rope. Saws, knives, Medic/aid kits and lights are also important. Most of this gear should be in the sweeper boat.

7. Know the knots you need...have them down cold! no thought-just be able to tie it!

8. Buddy system for canoes... "no lone boaters"

9. There is no shame to scrubing a river trip if the situation is "going bad"...just make it a campout or a fishing trip...or even a dinner road trip.

10. Plan for the worst...

 

We can love the river but we must never trust the river...be cautious and careful.

 

and offer a prayer for those lost.

 

Anarchist

 

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How sad :(

 

For meself, I would never run a crew on a rain swollen river. Too many things can go wrong very quickly.

 

Peace, and all my best to this family who will have to endure such a great loss...

 

 

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We have had two instances recently where our intended canoe trips were cancelled by the outfitter due to high and fast water. Once was on the Buffalo River in Arkansas when they had 12" of rain the day before our arrival. Westark Council (Camp Orr) would not allow us on the river. A few years ago we had a trip scheduled on the Kankakee River in Illinois, and again due to fast river conditions the trip was cancelled. Disappointing? Yes, but we are all still safe and sound. Listen to your outfitters!

 

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High Water Cited in Boy's Death

Swollen River likely a factor in Scout's drowning, officials say

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

 

A swollen river from heavy rainfall Friday and Saturday likely contributed to the drowning of a Little Rock Boy Scout during a Sunday canoe trip, officials said.

 

The U.S. Geological Survey indicated the Caddo River in Montgomery County was near flood level Sunday afternoon when Hari Natgunasekaram drowned after his canoe tipped over.

 

Hari, who was 11 or 12, was with members of Troop 59 of Little Rock who had gone to the river for a canoe trip, according to the Montgomery County sheriffs office. Hari and another boy were a half-mile upstream from Manfred Road near Caddo Gap in southern Montgomery County just before 1 p.m. when the canoe struck a submerged tree and flipped.

 

Both the boys wore life jackets, and Scoutmaster Brad Chilcote of Little Rock, who was with the troop, pulled one of the boys to safety, the sheriff said. Reached at home, Chilcote declined to talk about the accident.

 

After Chilcote and a Scout leader searched for Hari for about an hour with no luck, they called 911, the sheriff said.

 

Rescuers found the canoe upside down, completely submerged and trapped between two trees at 3:30 p.m., the sheriff said. The trees were cut loose and the canoe came free in the rushing water. It was then they found Hari.

 

The boy was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, the sheriff said.

 

Little Rock Scout leaders did not return phone calls seeking comment.

 

Marcell Jones, president of the Arkansas Canoe Club, said rivers across the state were running much deeper and faster than normal on Saturday and Sunday.

 

The Caddo River is not dangerous under normal circumstances, Jones said. Any river can be dangerous when you have a large rain.

 

At the clubs annual Canoe Safety School, which will be this weekend on the Mulberry River, one of the main topics will be avoiding trees in the water, Jones said.

 

Not only can trees knock canoes over, but people can become caught on their branches underwater bringing on the nickname strainers.

 

Those are things you avoid at all costs, Jones said.

 

*****

 

I didn't realize they put on the river on Sunday. The river came up fast on Saturday and could have caught someone unawares; on Sunday it should have been very obvious that the river was in a flood. A tragic choice not to bail out of the planned trip.

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A tragic event, to matter how you look at it. However, before we get into any heavy finger-pointing, (not to say we have, but this group IS good at that :) ) let's all think how we'd feel if we were one of the Scout Leaders who was responsible for those boys, let's remember a "Scout is kind", and while we pray for that lad's family, let's not forget the Scouts who witnessed this tragedy nor the adult leaders. While we struggle to understand how this could have happened, and try to learn from it so it doesn't happen to us, we need to realize it DID happen, and the only thing that can come out of negative comments now is more hurt. Yes: discuss & learn from this, but be kind & do not judge, lest ye also be judged.

 

YIS (& mourning), Ma

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But...why did it take them an hour to call 911?? I'm asking not to point fingers but to understand how that decision was made in case there's something to be learned from it. I know our waterfront rules required immediately sounding the alert if someone was missing for even a second after a buddy check. A canoe flips and you cant find one of em?? That's an immediate emergency I would think. It's not like someone's going to flip their canoe and then just "wander off for a bit".

Anne in Mpls

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Anne -- there is a chasm of difference in discussing for learning and chastising or finger pointing. Your question is an example of wanting to learn so we don't make the same mistake. "What were they thinking?" types of questions are the ones I was thinking of...

 

We don't know why they waited an hour before calling anyone. We can only project & theorize at this time. I'm thinking on the lines of: The leaders were frantically trying to save the boys. They probably didn't have a cell phone as either it would get wet or there was no service there anyway. Perhaps they didn't want to risk more boys by sending them for help. Perhaps they didn't think they could spare the older, more experienced Scouts or leaders as they were utilizing all qualified people in the immediate & frantic search. The hour delay has me stymied, too. However, if they have secured legal counsel, it seems like they would have been told to keep their mouths shut, which would seem reasonable, regardless of "fault".

 

I am interested to hear the whole story, and truly hope we can all learn from this. Perhaps what we shouldn't do, but more importantly, what we should do...

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I grew up in North Arkansas and my dad and I canoed most of those rivers. I worked with Girl Scouts in the Ouachita River area. I don't know of any of those rivers I would attempt to canoe or float after major rain.

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I am an outfitter on the Buffalo River in Arkansas. And the very first thing that should be told over and over after being told to use your PFD is to stay on the up river side of a canoe if it goes over....especially in fast water to avoid being pinned between the boat and an object like a rock or tree.Youd be surprised to know how few people either know this or can answer which side when asked. It should be reinforced whenever Scouts go canoeing. You have some time to get under the canoe and/or push it over or away from you. Id be curious as to if the group had throw bags for rescue. A throw bag is an inexpensive piece of rescue equipment and can be used with a caribiner to move a boat. You should also consider having a hack saw in your rescue bag. Sometimes the saw is the quickest way to save someone trapped behind a boat by cutting the canoe in half. The saw will rip through the hull quickly opening it up.We should all know a canoe can be easily replaced.

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