Ryan
Allison, a 16-year-old high school student participating in a school
field trip, drowned Wednesday (9/25/1996) while on a self-guided raft
trip on the Nantahala River (NC). According to a story in the
Asheville Citizen-Times, the raft in which Ms. Allison was riding hit
a rock above Patton’s run, the rapid just downstream of the put-in.

Four
of the eight students in the raft were thrown into the water. Two
were immediately pulled back into the boat, while a third tried to
pull the raft free. The students realized Ms. Allison was missing
when they saw her PFD float free, and then saw that her foot was
trapped between rocks and that she was being held face-down under
three feet of water by the force of the current.

The
students flagged down a passing NOC commercial raft trip and its
guides immediately mounted a rescue attempt, succeeding in freeing
Ms. Allison’s body 20 minutes after her entrapment.

Ms.
Allison’s death is the second in two months for a customer using
equipment rented from the NOC. Prior to a 58-year-old man’s death
last month (August), no customers had drowned in the NOC’s 25-year
history running trips on the Nantahala.

Approximately
280,000 people ran the Nantahala in 1995. Ms. Allison’s death is the
fourth since records began to be kept in 1984, and only the second
rafter (the first being the 58-year-old man last month).

For
me, Ms. Allison’s death underscores the importance of not standing up
in a swift current. To die at 16 in three feet of water is a real
tragedy.

by
Chris Bell
Western Carolina Paddlers
From The Eddy Line,
November 1996