Monday, November 23, 2009

Kayak Instructor Dies in UK River Accident

This is republished from The Guardian (UK):

The canoeist who died in Devon after becoming trapped in a swollen river was an extremely experienced kayak instructor, it has emerged.

Two friends desperately tried to keep Chris Wheeler's head above the water when he became pinned against a tree in the river Dart, but he had died by the time rescuers got there.

In Brecon, mid Wales, the emergency services continued to search today for a 21-year-old woman who fell into the river Usk. Police were still trying to establish how the accident happened but said the banks were slippy and dangerous.

Wheeler, 46, a chartered surveyor and kayak instructor from Reading, got into difficulty after 30mm of rain fell in just three hours last night. The part of the river he died in is popular with canoeists but hazardous when in spate. His two colleagues were pulled from the water and airlifted to hospital suffering from the effects of hypothermia but were later discharged.

A spokesman for Devon and Somerset fire and rescue service said: "The spot was a five-mile walk from any road and it took fire crews around two hours to find them."

Wheeler, nicknamed Magic Knees after he dislocated both knees in an accident at a waterfall, had been canoeing for 25 years and regularly contributed articles to the Canoe and Kayak UK magazine. In the last few years, he had canoed in Bolivia, India, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Canada, USA and Norway.

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