2 rafters die on the Ocoee in 2 days

Saturday morning I was part of a group that put on the Ocoee in late morning. As one of our group drove down US 64 East to turn into the parking area at the put in for the middle Ocoee he observed a raft flip almost immediately on leaving the launch pad ejecting 4 swimmers into the first rapid (Grumpy). Another of our party who had arrived a few minutes sooner had walked down the catwalk along the road at Grumpy and observed a woman take a nasty swim over the river right side of Grumpy ledge. He became aware that she was in trouble and assisted with CPR on her around the lower put-in at Grumpy. She did not regain consciousness and was pronounced dead later yesterday.

Today apparently another female rafting customer swam at Grumpy and drowned: http://news.yahoo.com/2-rafting-deaths-2-days-ocoee-river-tenn-220900903.html

I don’t know what the Ocoee was running today. Yesterday AM at the time of the incident more than 3000 cfs was flowing over Ocoee dam number 2. Shortly after the incident, water was diverted from the middle Ocoee through the flume which made a dramatic change in the dynamics of the first rapid.

I always appreciate the reminder that
the river is not a Disney ride, you can’t just shut off the water. I pray for grace and healing for the loved ones.

Ran it once at 2800 cfs, and it’s real
pushy. Makes quick rescue much more difficult.

Healing thoughts and prayers
to family and friends of those who drowned and those who were affected by being there. Pete, since I know you personally, supportive thoughts to you.

I admit to being a fraidy cat while paddling outside my comfort level but know that sometimes overcoming fear is a good thing to broading abilities and enjoying more activities. Common sense, heeding safety instructions and advice from those with expertise is needed. But I also know very personally that things can happen that are just not understandable or predictable or ? No more words. No wisdom, just sadness.

Ocoee surges
A thread on boatertalk suggests that there was a flow surge on the middle Ocoee that was a factor in Sunday’s drowning death.

The TVA site for flow over Ocoee dam number 2 indicates hourly average flows on Saturday of over 3400 cfs at midday at the time of the incident. But these are hourly averages that might not reflect surges that are brief in duration. I observed a huge change in the appearance of Grumpy that took place within 15 minutes time.

At the time of Saturday’s fatality a considerable amount of water was flowing over the concrete launching pad at the bottom of the ramp. There was really no eddy in which to board passengers and it was necessary for the crew to more or less scramble into the raft, get into position, and immediately paddle with determination in order to avoid broaching on Whiteface rock and get far enough river left to catch the tongue over the left side of Grumpy ledge.

The hydraulic looked worse than I had ever seen it on a day when commercial rafting was ongoing, and it was much wider than usual. So to avoid the meat of the hole, it was necessary to get farther left than usual and because of the pushiness of the water, there was much less time to do it.