• Published: March 15, 2011

Case Study #1
Month: Mid July
Time: Midafternoon
A commercial solo raft on the Rollercoaster section of the Alberton Gorge was flipped at the rock/hydraulic in the middle of the rapid. A customer sitting in the front was knocked backwards and struck her head on either the rock or oar frame, it was unknown which. The guide was unable to get the customers back in the boat – but was able to get them to river-right just below Mermaid rock/above Fang. The woman was responsive but was complaining of severe head and neck pain and was unable to move. At that time a guided riverboarding/rafting group approached and was able to offer assistance.
What would you do?
Outcome: EMTs were taken to the scene by local river guides where a combination of the guides/EMTs were able to transport her to a nearby takeout. Life-flight transported her to Missoula.
Relevant Questions:
Are solo trips riskier than multi-craft trips?
True or False Most medical emergencies can be handled by a solo responder, if their skills are proficient enough.

Case Study #2
Month: Mid-May
Time: Mid-afternoon
Lucas and his cousins, the Amtmann girls, were kayaking the canyon section of the Big Hole. Lucas Flipped on an eddy line and was unable to roll up. The girls were able to get Lucas and his kayak to an eddy behind a large rock and just upstream of a drop containing hazards from the remains of an old dam. The eddy where Lucas was located was about 40 feet from river-right. Lucas was unable to swim the 40 feet to shore.
How would you get uninjured but stranded Lucas and his kayak back to shore?
Outcome: First, a kayaker reached a river-right eddy and got to shore. A waist carried throw rope was thrown to Lucas and he attached it to the kayak, which was pulled to shore. Lucas then held on to the same rope and was swung to shore in pendulum fashion.
Relevant questions:
What age is appropriate for kids to be recreating on rivers?
What age is appropriate for kids to be learning about river safety?
What age is appropriate for children to learn river rescue skills?
True or False It’s okay to take children on the river, but they probably shouldn’t swim in the river – it’s too dangerous.

Case Study 3
With a cooler packed to the gills, Tom, and his friends were looking forward to having a great run down the Alberton Gorge on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Tom, who was a little gassed by the time the group passed Triple Bridges, allowed the raft to hit Split Rock sideways dumping everyone. Everyone was able to get to shore, except Tom. He swam Tumbleweed and finally washed ashore on river right about 200 yards below Tumbleweed. Tom was not moving and was not responsive to verbal calls to him from across the river. The River Ranger, who observed this from across the river was unable to reach the victim but called 911. Local guides were below Tom and were able to capture his raft and some of his gear. Tom remained unmoving.
What would you do?
Outcome: Tom was exhausted but uninjured. Private boaters stopped and picked up various members of the group, including Tom and brought them down to their raft. A detailed assessment showed no injuries – just exhaustion and the call for SAR/EMS was cancelled. Tom expressed disappointment that the beer he kept in the pocket of his PFD was lost during the swim.
Relevant questions:
True or False Physical fitness plays a role in self-rescue
True or False Physical fitness doesn’t play much of a role in your ability to rescue others?

Case Study #4
A group of six friends gathered on the Alberton Gorge in April for a recreational run. Two weeks prior, the same group had gone down the gorge at about 5,000 CFS. Though the water was significantly higher this day – about 17,000 CFS – the group felt their experience and attention to safety would carry them through this section. The group had older gear, including bucket-bailing rafts, but were excited about the day of whitewater ahead of them nonetheless. The high level made for a quick run of the upper section to Triple Bridges. Once the group got to Split Rock they were unable to avoid a large hydraulic in the middle of the river – causing them to take on water. Unable to bail the water out, they lost control through Boat Eater – eventually capsizing. One of the group, was unable to self-rescue.
What are your options to assist in the rescuing the individual?
Outcome: After a long, cold swim, he was brought to shore but was unable to be revived.
More to the story: Because of the cold weather and the level of the river that day the local commercial outfitters were concerned about their safety, but the group stated their comfort in running the river because of how well they did two weeks prior.
Relevant Questions:
Having a previously successful run on a river is assurance that the next run will be successful? Why?

“Whether you are a river-rookie or an experienced boater, WRI tailors their classes to what you need to learn in a fun and challenging environment. Their scenario based teaching approach creates an electric learning atmosphere where you feel like you are in actual river rescue situations. I would recommend them to anybody!”

Eric Giddens, Owner Kern River Brewing Company/1996 Olympic Kayak Team Member
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