What is going wrong?

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Mzee
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What is going wrong?

Post by Mzee » Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:50 pm

Two deaths and one critical casualty in one week end! What a terrible way to start the year for three families. In the last three years my small circle of kayaking contacts has reduced by two in kayaking accidents and my family very nearly by one at the end of November. See
http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/foru ... =3&t=84997

Hence my question – what is going wrong, if anything, and can we do anything about it?

Is it boat design? Is the improved design of boats giving us a feeling of security that is enabling us to push our own limits unrealistically close to the borderline?

Is it plastic boats? When I started paddling the fibreglass boat broke long before the body. Or is the robustness of plastic enabling limits to be pushed further and further with the inevitable consequences? Not that a glass boat would be taken down Douglas Water but a glass boat would have broken and not trapped David’s leg.

Is it more people paddling? The sport certainly is expanding.

Is it the internet? Have fatalities flat lined and it is just better communications that means we hear of more.

Is it the contents published on the web? A skilled paddler makes a fall look easy and Joe Bloggs thinks he can easily emulate him being unaware of the years of experience that led to the clean performance. Successful runs are uploaded to the web usually without the failures, injuries and cockups that preceded it or any reference to the safety and support or experience of the paddler.

Is it the restrictions of the coaching scheme? I am sure we all know paddlers with a wealth of experience but no qualifications who we would trust to lead us beyond our comfort zone, paddlers who do not have the time, finance or inclination to follow the coaching scheme. How can their skills be shared? How can paddlers, at what ever level, be developed into river leaders? Can this learning experience be formulated into a scheme without it becoming too tick-box orientated?

Is it poor risk assessment? How can risk assessment be “taught” when it is in reality gained through experience and how can this experience be gained without the outcome being too critical?

Anyone have any ideas?

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by TechnoEngineer » Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:58 pm

I wouldn't say there is anything in particular, although I suspect there might be a correlation with Flood. It's enough of an issue for Nealy to write a whole chapter on it in his book, "Kayak".
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by Dr Robin » Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:13 pm

Brave thread.

This point interested me:
Mzee wrote: Is it the contents published on the web? A skilled paddler makes a fall look easy and Joe Bloggs thinks he can easily emulate him...
I wonder whether there is a false perception of what is "dangerous". Naive paddlers may watch a video of Sam Ellis running Cauldren snout, and think that grade 3/4 is "safe". Note that the recent spate of accidents have not occured on grade 5.

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by Mark R » Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:14 pm

Much too soon.


Also, please note that today's offhand internet forum comments *will* be tomorrow's newspaper quotes.
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by Mark R » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:44 pm

Thread reinstated. Show some sensitivity if you contribute here.


For what it's worth, my personal view is that nothing particular is going wrong. I'm sure that we all understand that - give the nature of what we do - bad things occasionally happen in our sport, and very occasionally, more than one bad thing happens at once.

Each of the recent tragedies will have its own sad story. I would be very surprised to learn that there is a particular overarching theme here.
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by RapidMediaTVGuy » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:08 pm

I have zero knowledge of what's happening on your side of the world (This is coming from Canada - the Ottawa River to be exact) but in North America last year there were more close calls, severe injury and fatalities than I've heard in a long time.

There was an article in Rapid magazine called the new normal (http://www.rapidmag.com/blogs/features- ... ormal.html) where a friend of mine addresses some of the changes in mental attitudes in our sport. Maybe that has something to do with it?

I've been personally involved in way too many incidents and was fortunate enough to save a young woman's life last spring. I won't get into the details but it scares me that neither her or her paddling friends thought of it as a big deal (and there several errors in judgement leading up to the event) and thought it 'just happened'. Some times that is the case - things just happen but lot's of times there is a series of events that lead up to it and I can't stress enough the importance of spotting those little events. Putting on late, cold water, not feeling on your game, new gear, paddling with different people, out of shape.... the list goes on. One event might not be an issue but when two or three occur, things start to get out of hand.

Just my two cents,

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by enjoyer » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:37 pm

It seems to me that we cannot answer this question.

We could answer it if we had the facts. Obtaining the facts would allow us to analyse cause, examine trends and look at the need to change training, boat design etc. as appropriate.

To obtain the facts, we would need to have proper accident reports through investigation.

So I think the question we should be addressing is more related to how do we obtain facts, rather than to speculate on causes and solutions.

As our sport grows in popularity more accidents will happen and we will need to respond. I would rather we design the reporting and investigation processes ahead of the curve.

Experience is important yet so is evidence.

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by hardy » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:42 pm

Brave thread indeed,but one that needs addressing.
I have been waiting for this topic to come up,and thinking about it beforehand, i came to a conclusion.As it happens "Enjoyer" has echoed that thought above.IE,we need a proper understanding of each event,and future events.Not as an investigation for blame,but to find what went wrong,then try and address the issues.

Trouble is,how can we do that?I suppose the BCU could be the authority that undertakes that responsability,as many,if not most,paddlers belong to it.I do not,and for what it is worth,i think an authority like the BCU would get us all tangled up in red tape and health and safety etc.

People in our activity probably will not feel comfortable having to answer questions regarding tragic events.Maybe it would be better to have a place where those involved can put their information / interpretation of an event voluntarily?With an allowance for anonimity if required?

UKRGB?Heavy stuff,i know!

Thinking out loud.Hope i havent offended anyone.

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by justin-g » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:59 pm

Without proper details this is all conjecture... not in favor of this thread. If we have the details - such as with the NZ incident database - then a proper informed debate can happen. But otherwise we are all just guessing - and that's not fair to the families or their paddling partners and friends.
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by Rdscott » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:18 pm

Do you think there is more accidents or is it just in the public domain alot more.

If there is more accidents than there used to be is this expected,with the greater numbers of participants in the sport there is bound to be an increase in accidents the question is more have the ratios of accidents to participants risen.

On this note my heart and thought goes out to any one who has lost a family member, freind of fellow paddler, to the game of risk that we all play. It is not an easy time for anyone when accidents happen and although these discusions will be had it is always hard reading them wen some one you know has been lost.

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by mattdennies » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:25 pm

justin-g wrote:Without proper details this is all conjecture... not in favor of this thread. If we have the details - such as with the NZ incident database - then a proper informed debate can happen. But otherwise we are all just guessing - and that's not fair to the families or their paddling partners and friends.
This thread isn't about specific incidents that have happened recently remember, so no guessing or referring to specific incidents should occur.



I'd like to think an increase in accidents (if this is the case and not just an increase in them being reported in the media) is down to a larger number of people participating in the sport and not recklessness and ill formed judgement.
Let us not forget though that whitewater kayaking is an extreme sport, so with the thrill and excitement of the sport comes danger and consequences and those that are willing to take the risks involved do so knowingly (we hope).

I'm not sure keeping a database of details from incidents is a good thing to use to learn from mistakes as no situation will ever be the same. Perhaps there should be a bigger drive on people completing safety courses? Not that this is easy when you look at the price of them...

What must not happen is for our sport to become restricted by red tape and rules due to tragic accidents as this element of danger it whats makes our sport what it is.

Again I hope this hasn't caused offense.

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by TonyM » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:26 pm

Canoeing /kayaking has grown hugely in recent years - just look at the numbers at popular Dartmoor spots and elsewhere.

Are we seeing an increased (or possibly even decreased) rate of injuries/ fatalities, in terms of incidents per paddler/hour, compared with 'the past'?

Is the increased number due simply to the greater participation in the sport?

It will be helpful if between us we can arrive at some conclusions, because then we can start to plan a way forward.

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by Mark R » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:37 pm

mattdennies wrote:This thread isn't about specific incidents that have happened recently remember
Huh? Did you not read the title and first line of the thread?

For similar reasons to Justin-G I'm going to contribute no further to this thread. People are free to discuss of course, but I'll be staggered if anything worthwhile and meaningful comes out of this discussion at this time.
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by mattdennies » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:54 pm

Mark R wrote:
mattdennies wrote:This thread isn't about specific incidents that have happened recently remember
Huh? Did you not read the title and first line of the thread?

For similar reasons to Justin-G I'm going to contribute no further to this thread. People are free to discuss of course, but I'll be staggered if anything worthwhile and meaningful comes out of this discussion at this time.
Sorry, that was poorly written and would contradict what I wrote in the rest of my post.

What I meant is that we shouldn't be looking into specific incidents that have happened saying 'Mr X had this happen because Mr Y didn't do this so A, B and C happened as a consequence' as this causes blame which has no place here.

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by Poke » Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:07 pm

Mark R wrote:
mattdennies wrote:This thread isn't about specific incidents that have happened recently remember
Huh? Did you not read the title and first line of the thread?
No. Matt is right. The intent of the post is NOT about specific incidents.
The opening line is essentially a "there appear to be more and more bad accidents happening".
The question, is in general terms: "What is going wrong, if anything, and can we do anything about it?"

Whilst a specific incident that the original poster is aware of all the details of is used as an example, it is not intended to pick faults in specific incidents.
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by Big Henry » Thu Jan 19, 2012 1:35 am

I agree with Poke that this thread may be brought on by recent events, I don't think it is about (certainly the details of) specific events.

I think within the paddling world, I think practically all sad events that have occurred over the past ten years or so have been reported (ie brought to our attention), whether or not details have emerged, and in a general sense I don't think they need to. These events seem to come in clusters, which I suppose by the very nature of the sport being weather related you may expect. However, I personally don't think that there is an absolute correlation between "extreme" weather (lots of rain over a short period) and such events. Dr Robin suggested above that videos such as Sam Ellis on Cauldron Snout has an effect. It was considering this comment that made me add my thoughts. After I'd watched the videos of his decent I actually thought "That doesn't look as bad as I thought it would, all I'd need is a bit more bottle and I could do stuff like that" when in fact I think I could safely say I never could, or would try it. Just for a few minutes I imagined! It was strangely similar when I watched the 'safety tips' paddle of the Upper Cherry Creek, but I know I'll never be able to do that. Compare that to the videos of the massive waters and big waterfalls of America - I cringe when I look at them, and would never even conceive of thinking about doing them myself. So there could be something in the idea that the videos are giving people false confidence on certain runs - it's often said that GoPros flatten out rapids and drops.

However, if you think about accidents in a broader (non-paddling), global sense, I think you would find that there are clusters that are often not picked up on, and when taken statistically (not that people are statistics) over a longer period are often not seen as unusual, however sad they are.

Unfortunately it's often down to the fact that shit just happens, and it sometimes happens more than once at a time.

I sincerely hope my thoughts haven't overstepped the line with anyone, and unreservedly apologise if this is the case. My thoughts go out to everyone who has lost anyone, be it family member, friend or acquaintance.

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by TheKrikkitWars » Thu Jan 19, 2012 2:09 am

Big Henry wrote:However, if you think about accidents in a broader (non-paddling), global sense, I think you would find that there are clusters that are often not picked up on, and when taken statistically (not that people are statistics) over a longer period are often not seen as unusual, however sad they are.
That's very perceptive; Humans are exceptionally good at identifying patterns, one might say we're designed for it... and we can't escape that part of our nature, consequently we [as a species] are often tricked into seeing patterns where there are none due to the conceptual difficulty of dealing with random coincidence.

Whilst saddening, sobering and a little frightening to see such terrible misfortune clustered together, it's quite probable that all of these really rather nasty events in the last month or so are not directly linked or indirectly linked by a causitive factor/factors.
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by DaveBland » Thu Jan 19, 2012 3:28 am

Not talking about any specifics, but some general thoughts:

Christmas is a time when the most people have free time at the same time, so it follows that more people may be out on the river, so statistically more chance of accidents in one go.

Rivers are at their most dangerous when flooding [I know I've been close several times in flood situations] so if you do get a big flood weekend, multiple accidents may be more likely then.

And if there are generally more accidents these days, it could simply be down to there being more paddlers... or, as better kit makes harder water seem easier, the stakes get higher if things do go wrong.

Personally, I don't think it's anything to make a fuss about or over analise, it's a 'risk' sport and unfortunately sad accidents will happen from time to time.
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by Simon Westgarth » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:00 am

The specifics aside, as they are not in the public domain, and may never be.

From the recent deaths a few points can be highlighted;
  • All the paddlers were middle aged
    All the paddlers had some reasonable level of experience
    All the rivers where the deaths occurred were infrequently paddled
    All the deaths were during a time of increased flows
    Most of the deaths occurred over the Christmas holiday period when more people could go paddling
From the above observations, there can be drawn a few conclusions,
  • More people paddle when conditions are prime, during a time of holidays, these paddlers tend to be middle aged, as they normally have the time and means to go paddling.
    The more experienced paddlers take the opportunity of higher water to hit often more off the beat runs.
and more specifically of interest for myself as a coach;
  • During higher water conditions, skills set learnt on low water, are often tested and challenged and can produce mixed results.
And lastly, just sometimes, you can be unlucky.

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by davebrads » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:56 am

We should be careful of reading too much into this. What we have is a cluster of events, just because we had three fatalities in quick succession doesn't mean that there is a general upward trend of fatalities in our sport, you need to analyse the figures over a much longer period to see if there is any trends.

Each of the incidents by taken in isolation is quite unusual, they were all reasonably experienced paddlers, most paddling related deaths occur with people who have no idea what they are doing. The fact that we had three together is statistically unlikely, but not impossible.

Frankly I am surprised that we don't have more fatalities. Paddlers are pushing harder and more often. The Fairy Glen used to be run very rarely, but is now being run on a very regular basis. Despite this I haven't heard of a fatality for quite some time. The development of equipment and a better understanding of safety has undoubtedly helped, but it remains a dangerous river that nobody should take lightly.
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by banzer » Thu Jan 19, 2012 3:17 pm

Strainers / entrapments by far the biggest risk in the UK IMO. Are there many fatalities on the Etive, that gets paddled almost more than anything else? No trees there. No trees on Cauldron Snout either. As others have said, it's not just about the 'difficulty' of the run.

Inspect, or if in flood, be alert and be prepared.

Just my thought on what is morally and factually a very difficult question to answer.
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by Rhod » Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:55 pm

Whilst off topic slightly, the links to news reports were posted very quickly here while the info was still very fresh. Is it not the place of family (if appropriate) or friends to pass the info on?

These are members of our community that many of us know. Do they not deserve their name in the first post rather than a URL?
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by Jim_MWX » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:18 pm

First, to all the people who have lost a friend or family member I'm sorry for your loss and the families loss.

For me most of the recent accidents seemed to occur in short succession due to the fact people were out paddling over the Christmas period. That and we have had a winter where the rivers have been running more frequently so people may be out more often.

In many ways I agree with you Rhod, perhaps it should be a family of friend member who posts first. But we are in an age where everything, no matter how tragic, is online and in the news often minutes after the event.



I won't comment further out of respect to all the people who've lost a loved one.
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by Steve B » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:30 pm

Let's not have a debate about how UKRGB should handle these things. It's hard enough already without other people thinking they can do better.
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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by Onecar » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:46 pm

Steve B wrote:Let's not have a debate about how UKRGB should handle these things. It's hard enough already without other people thinking they can do better.
No debate as far as I'm concerned.
UKRGB ( or any other internet forum) should not " handle these things". Have some respect and let this thread go. It's ( IMHO) in very poor taste.

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by SwamP » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:59 pm

Onecar wrote:
Steve B wrote:Let's not have a debate about how UKRGB should handle these things. It's hard enough already without other people thinking they can do better.
No debate as far as I'm concerned.
UKRGB ( or any other internet forum) should not " handle these things". Have some respect and let this thread go. It's ( IMHO) in very poor taste.
And if you do have a strong opinion of this, think of a solution, go out and follow it, then start a thread about those efforts...

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by SimonMW » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:00 pm

I would like to see some sort of accident database that show the causes and contributory factors that caused the accident. American Whitewater has something like this. And as a friend of mine told me, in hand gliding and paragliding the details of the causes of accidents are logged in detail so people can learn from the mistakes.

It might sound morbid, but it isn't. More openness about what caused the accidents and the reasons for what happened would help people learn, and it would also mean that at least their deaths would not be in vain, tragic though it is.

I'm not a believer that stuff just happens. On the face of it it might seem that way, but the devil is always in the detail of snowballing contributory factors. Sometimes an accident is unavoidable. There are inherent risks in what we do, just as driving a car has an inherent risk. In the grand scheme of things, given the numbers involved in paddling, our sport has a pretty good safety record. But I really do think that more openness is needed about detailing what exactly happened leading up to accidents that do occur. Doing so is not a disrespect to the families involved. Quite the contrary, as I am sure those families would like to help others learn from the incident if it meant that they stood a better chance of avoiding the same thing happening in the future.

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by callum s » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:18 am

SimonMW wrote: I would like to see some sort of accident database that show the causes and contributory factors that caused the accident. American Whitewater has something like this. And as a friend of mine told me, in hand gliding and paragliding the details of the causes of accidents are logged in detail so people can learn from the mistakes.
http://www.americanwhitewater.org/conte ... dent/view/
Not particulary detailed, although very interesting for general trends.
eg. massive increase in spinal injuries in last few years, period of relatively low fatalities 2003/4/5.

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by thetangoman » Fri Jan 20, 2012 2:27 pm

An article by Doug Ammons on this topic: http://www.dougammons.com/MakingSenseOfDeath.pdf

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Re: What is going wrong?

Post by TechnoEngineer » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:21 pm

thetangoman wrote:An article by Doug Ammons on this topic: http://www.dougammons.com/MakingSenseOfDeath.pdf
Great article - thanks for that!
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