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From Paradise to Tragedy - Avoiding a Deadly Transition on Your Vacation

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CHRIS MCBETH

Well-Known Member
My wife and I had the good fortune of coming up to Powell over the weekend to participate in the Striper spawn, which Saturday afternoon resulted in catching 6 of the biggest fish either of us had ever seen in person, let alone caught.

That evening, we had the pleasure of sharing dinner with Wayne and his lovely wife in Page, and overall the weekend was shaping up to be one of those defining moments in ones life that sticks with you the rest of your days.

Who knows, but we may never again have the luck we had on Saturday, catching huge Striper after huge Striper in the middle of the afternoon (very back of Navajo Canyon)?

Sunday, we got up and enjoyed the sunrise and a cup of coffee, and got back out on the lake no later than 6:00am.

We fished, and explored, and went site-seeing all day, and around noon sadly had to return to Wahweap for our trek home.

Tired, content, and grateful for a weekend that could be considered a once-in-a-lifetime to many people.

This is where the story gets a bit melancholy:

Upon returning to the ramp, and coming out the other side of the cut, we realized the entire ramp was covered by emergency vehicles. Once we got closer and tied up to the back side of the retrieval dock, we learned there was someone in cardiac arrest. The EMT's were on the launch side giving him compressions for almost 30 minutes in an effort to keep him with us.

Watching this, we were reminded of the not-too-distant past when my own Mother who (we thought) was in very good health, fit, trim, and experienced a devastating heart attack while we were boogy boarding at Stinson Beach California three years ago.

Seeing these guys trying to save his life, and his family not too far away observing helpless in total shock about the gravity of that moment...

We have no idea whether than man lived or not. It sure didn't look good when they took him away in the ambulance, but maybe??????? (We tried searching the news and couldn't find anything).

When we finally got the boat off the water and I text'd Wayne, he mentioned his wife had been monitoring the radio and a girl had drowned down by the damn so we don't know if there were two incidents or if the person we saw treated by the EMT's was related.

Regardless, in that moment the paradise we knew as Powell transformed into something else; A place where it's easy to "forget" how fragile life is.

Perhaps the moral of this story is (and I know it's obvious... but we humans have a tendency to get complacent in the absence of imminent danger or death):

1. Take care of yourself, and your loved ones on the lake. Use caution and common sense and keep your vacation from taking a terrible turn.
2. Prepare for emergencies - E.g. make sure everyone on the boat is briefed on the basic operation of the boat, how to use the radio, etc.
3. And maybe on a much larger scale: If you have health issues, make SURE you have the things you need to make the chance of an emergency as slim as you can e.g. take extra medication, ensure others are aware of your condition, be mindful of the responsibility you have to your loved ones to have a defibrillator if you have a heart problem, keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum while operating or in remote areas, drink lots of water, keep yourself cool, etc.

Amy and I were saddened by these things, but at the same time inspired to use it as an example, and to learn from it.

I'm a big guy myself, and while I do the best I can to stay in good health and such, I realized if I had a heart attack I wasn't sure Amy knew enough about our equipment to make an emergency call (channel 16) or activate our Personal Locator Beacon (if we were stranded for some reason and I was disabled), and confidence operating the boat all the way back to the dock in an emergency, etc.

So we've decided to do the following:

1. Write, print, and laminate a summarized set of instructions for the operational imperatives (radio, beacon, boat basics, etc.)
2. Ensure each time we go out, we have these instructions, and briefly go over them. (including any passengers).
3. Have a rule that nobody goes in the water without a vest, and everyone must have a buddy.
4. Going to invest in a AED. You never know when or if it will be needed, but spending $1100 to save someone's life seems like a wise decision.

Think about this the next time you're going out.

Plan ahead, and remember if you're out of shape it's YOUR responsibility to make sure you do what you can to avoid an emergency and empower your loved ones with the knowledge and tools to respond if something does happen. Don't leave them helpless...

Godspeed to the person we saw on the dock. (If anyone has an update on the outcome of that, Amy and I would appreciate knowing). At the end of it all, I suppose if you have to go, passing at Powell beats the pants off the master bathroom...Amy & Chris Wahweap Vista.jpgDSC02870.jpgDSC00047.jpgDSC00033.jpghuge striper striped bass lake powell.jpgDSC00002.jpgDSC00041.jpgDSC00032.jpgIMG_7243.jpgDSC00040.jpg
 
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CHRIS MCBETH

Well-Known Member
Great pictures, looks like you had beautiful weather for it. Thank you for sharing your story.
Is that Wayne still using his "manual" Jim Bowie Filet knife? Great times

Yes! I forgot my knife and Wayne was kind enough to offer a fillet job of our Saturday haul.

I think part of him also wanted to do some research on their reproductive organs... and maybe he also wanted to check on my "fish story" to see if I was telling the truth LOL.

That fish was BIG... more than 26" and although my scale said it was only 6.2 pounds, I am fairly certain it was more like 8 because it's a cheap digital scale I bought on Amazon for $14. I think i'll invest in a better one.
 

CHRIS MCBETH

Well-Known Member
Oh, so you used the old “forgot my knife” story......😉

Great photos. Tragedy can strike at any time. Important to live for today and not always focus on tomorrow. You never know if you will have a tomorrow.

You got me! ;)

Seriously though, Wayne actually offered (much to his credit).
 

potter water

Active Member
Very well said. Many of us have a Disneyland view of adventure where everyone has fun and there are backups to the backups for safety. I've chatted as best I could with some of the many German and other foreign visitors I see at the lake. They have no idea that Powell isn't EuroDisney. However, I will say that most of them seem to be in condition enough to swim to shore from any part of the lake in any weather. NOT me. But there is a sense one gets in national parks etc. that the government will take care of me of there is a problem. They will try, but in the end, your protection and safety are up to you and we need to all be prepared for at least basic contingencies. I'm surprised when I see boat way up the lake or up a long canyon with no back up propulsion. Also some without marine radio. Running out of fuel. Hiking and breaking a leg or spraining an ankle. There are so many common things that at home are minor irritants, but 50 miles from help are life threatening. I've personally towed three boats off the lake due to them running out of fuel, not having a spare prop or tools, major hull leak and the like. Proper maintenance of bodies and machinery is important. I'm 74 years old and very aware that I may be the reason my wife or a loved one has their whole vacation ruined because hubby/gramps drowned or had a heart attack or stroke. I'm leaving major adventure to the younger crowd and staying within a few hours of help should it be needed when I'm on the lake. Making sure that a spouse or other on the boat can co-pilot is one of the posters best ideas.
 

shanewave

Well-Known Member
Important post. Great recommendations. And--extraordinary pics. I can tell right where you are in Navajo--that oblong island is one of my favorite points of reference on google maps (and more importantly, in person)...also, your quip about passing at Powell is hilarious, sad, and very true. Reminds me of a great line from Blanco: the "impossible vocabulary of sorrow."
 

Ryan

Escalante-Class Member
Act like you are alone at Powell because you probably are. Thanks for the insight.
I used to think that.

A couple years back some friends of ours were at the lake. They were touring the Escalante with about an 8 year old girl riding in the bow of their boat. Another boat came by, and they took a bigger wave at a bad angle, and their boat slammed down very hard, really jarring the girl.

They knew it was serious when she couldn't catch her breath. They flagged down a houseboat, who called NPS, who sent two boats that arrived within just a few minutes.

The girl still couldn't catch her breath, so a med-evac helicopter was called in, and landed on the flat rocks near the floating restroom at the mouth of the Escalante.

Their story is that it was less than an hour from the time they called for help until the girl was in a copter on her way to the hospital.

I'm not saying you shouldn't be prepared, but I do now know that help is much closer than I ever thought.

The story above has a happy ending. It turns out the jarring of the boat caused a spinal compression/fracture for the 8 year old. They ended up flying her out of Page and to Scottsdale. She wore a brace for a couple months, and is now back to normal.
 

birdsnest

Escalante-Class Member
I think the moral of Chris's message is preparedness. Don't be lulled into complacencey by all the happy ending stories that you hear about. There are many that don't end so well. Not to be morbid but radio signals do not get out a lot of the time and help is not always minutes away. Personal responsibility is the key to good trips, both the captain and crew need to know all the dangers and how to avoid them. Something as simple as how to enter a wave can make the difference between inconvenience and injury as illustrated by your story. If that incident happened in another location or at a different time the results would most certainly have another result. There are just to many variables to rely on others to help. This is from a guy who worked on the lake on a daily basis and saw some ugly stuff. Just want everyone to return home safe.
 

CHRIS MCBETH

Well-Known Member
I think the moral of Chris's message is preparedness. Don't be lulled into complacencey by all the happy ending stories that you hear about. There are many that don't end so well. Not to be morbid but radio signals do not get out a lot of the time and help is not always minutes away. Personal responsibility is the key to good trips, both the captain and crew need to know all the dangers and how to avoid them. Something as simple as how to enter a wave can make the difference between inconvenience and injury as illustrated by your story. If that incident happened in another location or at a different time the results would most certainly have another result. There are just to many variables to rely on others to help. This is from a guy who worked on the lake on a daily basis and saw some ugly stuff. Just want everyone to return home safe.

You nailed it.

Personal responsibility, preparedness, awareness.
 
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