Henry Filip

June 28, 1997
Meatgrinder section of the Crystal

By Gordon Banks

Colorado's Crystal River was running approximately 1,250 cfs (considered a medium-high level) on June 28, 1997. Local boater Henry Filip scouted Meatgrinder Rapid before putting-in, even though he probably had run this drop about 50 times during his lifetime. Meatgrinder is divided by a large boulder, known as the "Island," which splits the river into a right and left channel and marks the middle of the rapid.

The upper half is the more technically demanding section, with pourovers, wood and the need to move right or left to avoid the rock island obstacle. Two kayakers and one other spectator were stationed along the river-left bank with a throw rope and a video camera. Henry ran the upper half of Meatgrinder without incident and eddied-out in the river-left channel.

The lower half is not as technical, but includes three holes in succession before the rapid ends. Henry waited while long-time paddling partner Gordon Banks set-up to film the lower half of the drop. Henry peeled-out and then went over a pourover and another hole he didn't have momentum to penetrate. After getting windowshaded in the hole, he recovered, but was then knocked over by the next cluster of holes.

He floated out of this second group of holes immediately but his roll attempts were disrupted by another pourover and rough water. Henry floated into the third group of holes, marked by a cliff on the river-left bank, still attempting to roll. He most likely took some head blows from underwater rocks in the process. Upon exiting the holes, Henry didn't show any more movement, nor did he attempt to roll. Slow-motion video replays vaguely show him letting go of his paddle after he drifts out of the holes next to the small cliff.

On shore, only Gordon was positioned to see the lower part of Henry's run. His perspective was limited, however, because he was looking through the viewfinder. As a result, he could not tell where Henry was. He presumed Henry had finally swum from his boat. The three spectators, now rescuers, searched the bottom area of Meatgrinder unsuccessfully before regrouping. Two of them then searched the river-right side of the river while Gordon searched farther downstream.

Gordon went down to Penny Hotsprings (one mile downstream), where he saw Henry's kayak floating upside-down in the middle of the river. He went down to the river to retrieve the boat. As he got closer, he realized Henry was still in the boat. Gordon and another rescuer could not get Henry out of the river before he slid into Narrows Rapid, just downstream of the hotspring.

Henry floated through the Narrows section in his boat as well. Two miles later and after multiple attempts to get his boat to shore, Henry dislodged from the boat. Gordon reached him at an island and attempted resuscitation. By that time, Henry had been under his boat floating down the river for approximately 45 minutes.