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Press Releases

American Whitewater Updates and Improves Accident Database

American Whitewater has updated and improved its Accident Database. For years, this information has allowed whitewater paddling enthusiasts to better educate themselves.

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American Whitewater’s Accident Database and Safety Code
The Most Comprehensive Source for
Whitewater Safety Education…Anywhere!

Cullowhee, NC — February 9, 2006 — Safety has been at the core of American Whitewater’s mission since 1954. “We’ve been reporting and analyzing accidents since our earliest days and today we are leaders in whitewater safety education based on that research. Our Accident Database is the most comprehensive collection and analysis of whitewater accidents and close calls anywhere,” explains Charlie Walbridge, American Whitewater’s Safety Editor. He goes on to say, “The freedom to take calculated risks, in business, love, or whitewater, is one of the most cherished prerogatives of a free people. We support the right of knowledgeable paddlers to push their limits, and at the same time help give uninformed paddlers the information they need to have fun and stay safe.” The Accident Database is online at

Accident analysis is the foundation for the AW Safety Code which outlines whitewater safety guidelines applicable to all skill levels. First written in 1957 and regularly updated, it is the most complete set of guidelines for whitewater paddlers in existence. It also contains the International Scale of River Difficulty which is in use throughout North America and the world. AW’s listing of Standard Rated Rapids helps make river classification more consistent across the country. It was developed by former AW Safety Chair Lee Belknap by scientifically analyzing forms filled out by hundreds of paddlers across the country. Paddlers across the nation use it to know what to expect when traveling to an unfamiliar river.

Safety often becomes an issue in river stewardship work; AW’s key programmatic focus. The challenge is often explaining whitewater paddling to the non-paddling public. Commonly asked questions are: “How safe is whitewater paddling? Where does AW stand on riverbed modification or boat registration? What are the most important issues for legislators, river managers, and emergency responders?” All of these questions are answered in the safety section of the stewardship toolkit online at

To Report an Accident:

Accident reporting is vital to American Whitewater’s mission. But more importantly, it’s a sure antidote to the rumor, gossip, and innuendo that always follows a serious accident. AW’s Accident Database works with individuals who were on the scene and is thus able to set the record straight.

The Accident Database contains reports of fatal accidents, serious injuries, and near-misses. A serious injury is one requiring hospitalization; a near miss is an event which could easily have been fatal. The Safety Committee examines all submissions prior to the final posting and decides which incidents will be added to the database.

There are several ways to report an accident:

1) Each witness can post their own account to the AW web site and the Safety Committee will create a report.

2) Groups or individuals can create their own report and post it. If you would like help in crafting your report, contact Charlie Walbridge, AW Safety Editor, at or by phone at 304-379-9002.

3) You can post emails, message board and chat room postings, and newspaper articles at, follow Safety link under Information. In addition to providing a link, please cut and paste the text from the article. The links may be dead when someone from Safety Committee follows it up. Always be sure that the SOURCE and DATE is clearly indicated.

4) If you want to pass on information that you DON’T want the public to see, please specify on the report form that the material is private. If so designated, it will not be released without your OK.

If you have corrections, questions or comments about any accident please email Charlie Walbridge at

The recent improvements and updates of the AW Accident Database were made possible by the Andy Banach Memorial Safety Fund. AW thanks the family and friends of Andy Banach.