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Canoeist dies after Smokies canoe accident

5:10 AM, Mar 12, 2013   |    comments
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Update Tuesday 6:07 am

Blount Memorial Hospital has confirmed to 10News that Steve Senior has died.

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Crews rescued a canoeist trapped underwater at the "Sinks" in the Smokies on Monday afternoon.

Steve Senior from Bridgeport, Ontario was seriously hurt in the accident. The park says he was attending the "Ain't Louie Fest"

He was pinned underwater until other members of his group could pull him out and begin CPR. Someone called 911 to report the incident shortly before 12:45 p.m.

Bryan Isbell of Cookeville, Tennessee was one of several dozen canoeists running the same course as Senior, though the two did not know each other.

Isbell watched his fellow boater take the fall. "This happened in basically the first rapid after I got on river," he said. "This guy's coming down and we see him swim out of his boat, and he goes over a drop, and goes under water, and then, we didn't see him again."

Isbell says most people on the trip have completed significant training in water rescue, and the group jumped into action immediately. "The people who were running the rescues were consummate professionals, knew exactly what they were doing. We had four or five people doing what's called 'live bait' where, basically, we tied ropes to their PFDs [Personal Flotation Devices] and they jumped into the rapid above where the guy was and tried to drag him out."

Rescuers performed CPR and transported the victim to Blount Memorial Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition Monday night. "Tonight we raise a glass to the guy and hope he pulls through," Isbell said, as he prepared to join other boaters at a pre-planned dinner at Calhouns.

Reflecting on the day, Isbell says the actions of the other canoeists in the water with Senior Monday were not surprising. He says the people risking their own lives for another deserve all the credit.

"It's a real close knit kind of community," he said of the boaters. "Everybody has to trust each other, everybody has to be ready to jump in there and help the guy who's in trouble even if you don't know who they are. You do whatever it takes."

Officials had to close Little River Road between Metcalf Bottoms and the Townsend Whye for emergency traffic, but opened later Monday afternoon.

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