Real life father recounts own horrific 'Sophie's Choice' after accident

Tuesday, 17 June 2008
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As many of your know, our blog has a bit of an informal ban on posting articles about paddling deaths. The reason is simple; if we were to focus on the 10 headlines about some sort of accident or drowning from around the world that I read just this morning, I would give up on paddling really fast...

As many of your know, our blog has a bit of an informal ban on posting articles about paddling deaths. The reason is simple; if we were to focus on the 10 headlines about some sort of accident or drowning from around the world that I read just this morning, I would give up on paddling really fast.

Accidents happen all the time and it focusing on them can quickly paint a picture that canoe or kayaking is an extreme sport where you are facing death at any turn. We all know that statistically, that isn't the case.

Today, I decided to break that ban and post a portion of a news article about testimony at the corners inquest into the drowning of Billie Clayton in Wales. Why you might ask? Read the article, it will break your heart.

During the testimony her father Ian Clayton, a British TV announcer, recounted his agonizing, split-second, decision - which of his 9-year-old twins to save - when their canoe capsized in violent rapids during what should have been an idyllic family outing.

"Should I go for the one I can see and hope that later I can find the one I can't see? In the end I went for the one I could see," Clayton, 48, told an inquest panel into Billie's death, which happened on April 12, 2006, in Wales.

The father's decision to help Edward to safety was all the more wrenching because of his young son's words: "Save my sister first."

"It's hard to understand what was going through that little lad's mind for him to say that," Clayton said

The inquest forced Clayton to relive a decision that is any parent's darkest nightmare.

"What twin to go for?" said Clayton, speaking through tears. "Sometimes I dream that I saved Billie instead. I will never know if I made the right decision.

Once he had pulled his son to safety, Clayton was able to call an ambulance, and paramedics advised him not to jump back in to look for his daughter in the raging water. "I was frightened to jump back in there," he said. "I will admit it. I'm not sure if I would have if that woman hadn't told me not to."

"It is such a tragedy and people say that tragedy gets better with time. But it doesn't. The pain is still the same today, two years and two months after."

More info: nydailynews.com
David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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