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Thread: Chitina and lifejackets!

  1. #1

    Default Chitina and lifejackets!

    Someone just posted the message below in another thread but I thought I would start a new thread to remind folks about the Copper River. I was dipping down there last weekend (it stunk bad) and noticed a lot of people in boats NOT wearing life jackets! Are you freakin crazy - read the story below. One boat with like 5 or 6 guys went zooming by us last weekend and I didn't see 1 life jacket! They ran over a good sized log floating in the river as they were going out of site! I wear a life jacket when dipping from the bank, call me a weenie or whatever you want, but you won't read about me in the paper! If just 1 person reads this thread and decides to wear his/her life jacket then it has been worth my time to type it. PLEASE, wear a life jacket when boating in Alaskan waters, especially Chitina!

    Suck holes are whirlpools. We watched from shore last Father's Day as three men in a jon boat drove straight into a whirlpool at low speed, then powered off.

    The current swung the boat crosswise to the flow, stopped it, sucked it down, then started pouring water into the stern.

    The bow of the boat went upwards, with the open end facing upriver and the engine submerged. The man in the bow had to bail out first, then the man in the middle, then the man driving the boat. None of them had life jackets on that I could see. The man in the middle had the presence of mind to grab his seat cushion and throw it overboard. The driver stayed with the overturned boat, but the other two men were too far away from it. As they started to move out of sight, one man started to cry out for help.

    This was all taking place about 20 yards offshore. My fishing partner and I stood watching helplessly. He said, "Tony, we've got to do something! These men are going to die!" He started shouting and waving at people upriver on a gravel bar, but there's no way they could hear us. We didn't know if they had even seen what happened.

    My partner decided to run back to Chitina where he could get cell phone coverage and call for help.

    I stood there in shock and started praying for God to save those men, then remembered that I had happened to bring some skyrocket emergency flares with me that year. I was just shaking, trying to get them out and then didn't know how to launch them. So I didn't have my reading glasses with me and was shaking so hard I couldn't even read the directions.

    Finally I figured it out and shot off all three.

    Pretty soon a man came downriver from the bridge in his boat, going back and forth across the river. I took off my life jacket and started waving it and shouting. As he approached, I signaled three men in the river downstream. He took off to look for them.

    Then all I could do was sit down and pray, pray, pray. What a helpless feeling.

    About twenty minutes later, I heard the rescuer coming back upriver. As he pulled alongside our site, I could see that he had rescued all three men. One man saw me and held his hands over his head in prayer, as if to thank God, then held up his seat cushion. A few minutes later, I heard a chopper heading for the bridge.

    As far as I know, they all made it.

    There are lots of lessons in this whole thing. Better find out all you can about running a boat on the Copper and be prepared for anything. I don't know what the statistics are concerning survivability rates in the Copper River, but they can't be too high.


  2. #2

    Default Amazing

    That's amazing that all of them were rescued. The number one rule when we're out on the boat is the lifejackets stay on at all times. I saw a couple boats when we were down there with guys not wearing them. That river's too cold and unforgiving to not wear one. We always have a "plan" if anybody should accidentally fall in while dipping, but have never had it happen, thank goodness. Thanks for sharing that story, it highlights a major safety item that everybody should have on at all times down there.

  3. #3


    Just another thought.

    People who don't wear life jackets while dipping out of a boat at Chitina are also putting there wood be rescuers (innocent people) at risk who might take a chance at rescuing them!

    Be safe...

  4. #4

    Default Re: Life jackets

    Quote Originally Posted by jpost View Post
    Just another thought.

    People who don't wear life jackets while dipping out of a boat at Chitina are also putting there wood be rescuers (innocent people) at risk who might take a chance at rescuing them!

    Be safe...
    The man in the jon boat who rescued the three all by himself had some incredible courage and skill to do so. Not only could he maneuver close enough to get each one, he was able to pull aboard three individuals facing certain death.

    Make sure that if you are going to go with someone out in the wilds, that they are not a risk to themselves and you, especially if they're the one driving.



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