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Serious incident on Caledonian Canal near Inverness prompts warning to canoeists

By Neil MacPhail

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The incident occurred at Dochgarroch.
The incident occurred at Dochgarroch.

A potentially fatal incident on the Caledonian Canal near Inverness has prompted a warning from the Scottish Canoe Association. (SCA)

It involved a canoeist on a club trip being drawn through the Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) hydro-electric sluice above Dochgarroch by the force of the water.

The paddler pulled through the sluice, but was thankfully rescued from "the vigorously recirculating pool" below the sluice using a throw bag, and they suffered only minor injuries.

The club running the trip and the SCA have been working with SSE and Scottish Canals to help mitigate the risks involved at this location.

The warning from the SCA said: "There were multiple contributing factors that led to the incident, but several stand out in terms of that location.

"It should be noted that this is not the first time in recent years the sluice has been associated with a near-fatality. "Paddlers using the Caledonian Canal should stay well clear of the SSE sluice to river right on the canal, where it discharges into the top of the River Ness."

On this occasion, the intake to the sluice pulled the paddler out of the back of the eddy next to the sluice.

The warning added: "The SCA is advising all paddlers to avoid this eddy and not to attempt to run the concrete pad to the left of the sluice, as an apparently easy route for dropping onto the river.

"The level of risk depends on which sluice gates are open but avoidance is best practice.

"This incident also emphasised the value of carrying a throw line and being able to use it, as this was essential in the rescue."

A full report on the incident was prepared by the club running the trip, leading to the moves to try and lessen the risk of such an incident happening again.

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