No phone led to 37-minute delay in alerting emergency services

The location of the kayaking tragedy on the Roughty River

A WOMAN who died while kayaking in the Roughty River in Kilgarvan last November was a very experienced kayaker, with level four qualifications, who had attended river rescue courses and achieved the required qualifications, according to a report into the tragedy conducted by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.

The accident occurred on the morning of November 4 last after a party of five had entered the river close to Morley’s Bridge, aware of the dangers posed by a log that was causing an obstruction 2.5km downstream.

The first three kayakers got through safely but the 7’6” kayak used by the casualty, who was behind them, struck a rock and capsized and she went over a drop and became trapped on a branch under a log.

Repeated attempts were made by the four other kayakers to free the victim – who was in her 30s – before one of the party ran ashore and raised the alarm.

When the emergency services arrived, efforts were made to move the log and once ashore, the casualty was attended to by a doctor and pronounced dead. She had been wearing the required buoyancy vest and helmet and had a mobile phone in a waterproof case in her pocket.

The MCIB investigation noted that all five were experienced white-water kayakers and had qualifications from the Canoeing Ireland training scheme and completed river rescue courses.

A post mortem examination concluded that the death was caused by acute cardio-respiratory failure due to drowning.

A subsequent inspection of the kayak and buoyancy jacket found them to be serviceable and suitable for the activity on the day.

The official report stated: “The incident occurred because the casualty’s kayak touched a rock and capsized as she was turning across the current. The casualty probably exited the boat unintentionally and was unable to hold on to the boat or get to her feet”.

The MCIB report noted that the lack of a mobile phone at the scene of the incident resulted in a 37-minute delay in alerting the emergency services and a very high frequency radio in a suitable watertight cover was not readily available.

The inspectors also recommended that kayaking groups making descents on remote rivers of Grade 3 and higher should carry registered personal locator beacons to enable the early alerting of emergency services in the event of a problem.

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