Experienced kayakers recommend to stay out of trouble

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Kayaker Justin Harris has seen it time and time again.

Inexperienced boaters, going further down the river than they should and ending up in trouble.

"It happens all the time and it's actually a shame because the guys that know what they're doing, they come out here on a regular basis, we're afraid in the long run it's going to make us look bad," said Harris.

Monday's rescue hit a little closer to home as Harris actually attempted to help the three men before their boat overturned and jack-knifed between rocks.

"We talked to the canoers who were rescued, they didn't want to appear on camera but they tell us they were hoping to stay in one of the calmer portions of the river, but instead they lost control and ended up in the rapids," said Harris.

Rescue crews ran into a snag of their own -- they lost their boat's engine after hit it rocks. They were able continue the rescue with paddle rafts and get to all three stranded boaters. Harris says the rescue could have been prevented.

"Not only do they have no business being out here but also they didn't do their homework beforehand and didn't really know where they were going and anyone who is experienced in white water paddling knows that's the first thing, developing a float plan," said Harris.

But David Shipp, who has been kayaking on the James for eight years, says it could have been worse. At least these boaters were wearing life jackets -- something required by law when the river level is above five feet.

"It's easy to make a mistake even if you think you're pretty good and you can hit a rock and all of the sudden you're in the water and even though the water might not be deep it's still powerful," said David Shipp.

With the treacherous work environment, this is not the first time rescue squad boats have been damaged. The fire department tells us they have back up boats and engines for this very reason.

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