The incident occurred at Eye of the Needle Rapid (Class III), the last rapid on the Lower Salmon River approximately one quarter mile from the confluence of the Snake River. Beyond the confluence the river is broad with strong current and strong eddy lines with no significant rapids for a number of miles. The river edges are lined with alternating rock and sand/mud beaches.
The students were on the first day of a their river final river and had successfully demonstrated their boat handling skills multiple times during the days prior to the incident running significantly more difficult rapids than Eye of the Needle with the instructors present. They had also received in-depth rescue training and successfully completed two rescue initiatives earlier in the course. Group dynamics were excellent. The instructors elected to travel ahead and out of site of the group, run the rapid and set up protection in the eddy below. From their position they could see the top of the rapid if they stood up in their boat. If they were sitting, they were not visible from above.
The students were instructed to eddy out river left, land scout Eye of the Needle, and set up safety prior to running it. The lead student boat was ahead of the rest of the boats but within sight and did NOT recognize the scouting eddy or eddy out. Nor did they see the instructor's paddle signal to eddy out or once in the rapid, recognize the slight pressure mound of water that indicates a downstream hole. Their boat entered the rapid river left and flipped in the hole.
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