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When Someone Dies in the Park

January 11 2010 at 8:40 PM

John Scarlett  (Login J-stroker)
AA Forum Group

On occasion I have wondered what I would do if someone I was canoeing with died or we had to assist another party with a dead body, especially if you had no way to communicate to the outside world and there are only one or two surviving adults and no one can stay behind with the body to prevent its being eaten? Bury it, I suppose. Any first hand experience out there?

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(Login dannnnno)

Re: When Someone Dies in the Park

January 11 2010, 9:24 PM 

That would not be a situation that I want to experience, but mind you, I did have to deal with "dead drunks" on a few occasion!

(Login BoKnowsagain)

when someone dies in the Park

January 12 2010, 6:26 AM 

No first hand experience re this and I would hate to be put into such a position.

However, I would think that if your canoe partner died, you would have no choice but to leave
him/her and paddle to get help. If there was 3 in your group and I thought we could get help
in a day, I would still leave the body behind and paddle out for help.

However, I can envision all kinds of scenarios where you are unable to paddle to get help because
of being shorebound due to wind. In this case I think the SOS call of the wild should be put
into action and you should be vigilant to signal for help from any source that may come close to where you are.



(Login mattj_in_ottawa)
AA Forum Group

Re: When Someone Dies in the Park

January 12 2010, 6:38 AM 

I wouldn't bury them. I think as long as the body was in a tent or sleeping bag, they would be protected from curious scavengers for a day or two. And since nowhere in the park is really more than two days from help, and assistance would presumably be returning within hours once contacted, I don't think it's really a problem. Wrap them up, bless them for dying in their favourite place on earth, and head for the closest access point.

All that said, I suppose if the person dies in a bear attack, the bear will be primed to finish off the meal.

I know you asked for firsthand experience, John. I don't know if you'll get any, but it's reassuring to know I'm not the only one who thinks about things like that in the middle of winter while dreaming of the next summer's trips!



Sean (of Ajax)
(Login SeanOfAjax)
AA Forum Group


January 12 2010, 7:48 AM 

OK, the sick and twisted giggling side of me says to get your camera ready for lots of photo ops of animals coming to investigate the smell after a couple days. Some good wolf, bear, vulture shots should present themselves....(just joking folks)...

The not so twisted side of me has wondered the same thing and I think it would depend on the situation.

If someone has a heart attack on a portage, then I would be hitting the 911 on my SPOT and search and rescue would be on it's way.

If I woke up in the morning to find out my tripping buddy had passed in their sleep, I think I would make sure they were sealed up in the tent and then I would pack a light pack (water and snack) and head to the nearest access point where I would be sure there would be people and/or a phone where I could get in contact with the proper authorities and then head back to the campsite and wait for them to arrive.

I do a yearly trip with a buddy that is not in the greatest of shape and we always joke about him getting in shape as he gets older as I am not hauling his carcass out of the Park's interior if he has a heart attack and dies.

Very good question John, and I hope I never have to find out the answer first hand...

Sean (of Ajax)

http://www.ABRweb.ca .. Algonquin Backcountry Recreationalists - Caring for Algonquin's Backcountry

Ken Mac Donald
(Login 1978-1952)
AA Forum Group

dying while out camping

January 12 2010, 12:53 PM 

Not in the park but had the same question asked about a fly-in trip we did years ago. We where dropped off for a week and then picked up. My answer was either put the body in the propane fridge for the rest of the trip or covered up and pushed out into the lake in one of the extra boats. So obviously you do not have a fridge with you while in the park but you could ( worst case scenario ) cover the person up and put them in the canoe and tie it off and push them out into the lake and hopefully someone would come along.......

(Login Preacher23)

Re: When Someone Dies in the Park

January 12 2010, 1:45 PM 

No first hand experience, but yes I've thought of this too. Pretty morbid topic. wink.gif

Good luck burrying. Rocks & roots & thin topsoil on shield rock. I wouldn't want to dig a thunderbox in APP much less a grave that wouldn't be dug up by every carnivore in 20km.

Sink the body in a deep part of the lake. Poke a hole in the gut. Weigh it down with rocks. Tie some line (fishing line) to a float that marks the spot. Wake up screaming for the next 10 years.

(Login AAronRobichaud)

Re: When Someone Dies in the Park

January 12 2010, 2:00 PM 

Wow I sure hope that I don't die with any of you guys around in the park - I'll end up either floating out to sea, buried 1" underground, hung between trees (like a food bag), sunk to the bottom of a lake, or worse yet bbq'd and eaten!

This is a very disturbing topic, and I certainly hope that nobody here every experiences such an event.

Has anyone thought about the inquistion that would come after reporting a death?? You would suddenly become the prime suspect - so now the topic turns to how best to dispose of the body....happy.gif


(Login Preacher23)

How to best dispose of a body

January 12 2010, 4:04 PM 

Get a 100 gal drum & some gasoline.
Stuff the body & fuel in.
Mix & burn for several hours.


(Login markrubino)
AA Forum Group

Re: When Someone Dies in the Park

January 12 2010, 4:25 PM 

If I didn't have my SPOT with me(will be getting one in the spring), I'd leave a note on the campsite, with the body in the tent, thus out of sight and somewhat protected from the elements. Most importantly this would keep flies off the body which will accelerate the rate of decomposition which begins almost immediately after death. I'm not a religious person by nature, but I'd be saying a few farewells and a prayer or two as well to the newly departed. I'd head to the nearest access point and report my situation and wait for further instructions(I might be asked to guide a crew back to the scene?). Anyhoo that's my take on the situation, take it as it comes.
Here's hoping that never happens to you, me, or anyone...unfortunately, death is one life's great certainties.

Mark Rubino
Mark's Algonquin Park Sampler - Blog
Mark's Algonquin Park Sampler

http://www.ABRweb.ca .. Algonquin Backcountry Recreationalists - Caring for Algonquin's Backcountry


(Login SMolson)
AA Forum Group


January 12 2010, 4:33 PM 

Great question John. lol AAron - I'll carry u out.

Fortunately I've never been in that situation, certainly a challenging and emotional decision either way. It may not be the best choice, but I'd likely attempt to keep the body with me and head out. You'd have to make some form of stretcher with limbs, tie in the tent fly or body to the frame then rope the covered (in sleeping bay) body down for the portages. Take bare minimum of gear back (survival bag/food/paddle/etc), depending on how deep u are in the park and how many days-out you'll be. Likely you'll pass other trippers on your way out that will offer to help. That being said, if the circumstances dictate carrying the body out is not feasible (e.g. you are injured yourself or the body too heavy to carry) then I'd likely find a swamp/marsh with suitable and accessible muddy/duffy area. Place the body in a sleeping bag or wrap it in tarp, make yourself a little horizontal pier with tree(s) that gets u 10' out in the swamp/marsh without sinking or getting stuck yourself. Do what u can to eek out a rectangular impression as deep as u can (anaerobic conditions slow decomposition), drag the body out and place it in the hole. Cover the hole with the stuff u dug out or limbs/branches/reed matts - whatever is available. Mark the spot with GPSr, flagging tape, colorful jacket, tent fly, rocks, huge pile of branches or whatever and leave a note on waterproof paper or put in ziplock should others be curious as to what's there. Collect your wits, head out and seek help.

Many people have lost their lives in the park over the years, of all ages, occupations, under various circumstances (murder/sickness/accidental @ work or play/manslaughter/unknown/etc) especially earlier last century and late 18'th century. Likely many bones now turned to dust and part of the ecosystem now up there.

There was a recent occurrence, 2007, where the noted Cdn artis, Ken Danby died while in the park in North Tea Lake. Heart attack I believe, he was in his late 50s. Maybe they had a cell and called out (coverage there?) or one of their group high tailed it back through Amable du fond to the access, as paramedics were quickly on the scene apparently. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Danby

I can think of worst places to 'go' should you get the call.

(Login PrimevilKneivel)
AA Forum Group

Re: When Someone Dies in the Park

January 12 2010, 8:08 PM 

In my experience the problem isn't what to do with the body but how to keep anyone from finding or identifying it.

OK, dark humor out of the way now.

I would not sink it in the water, bodies in water decompose faster than on land. According to a police diver I spoke too, within days they swell to 5 times their size and tear apart like tissue when you touch them.

Tent would be out too IMO. You are not going to stop the body from decomposing, not without embalming it. So the tent will be a write off. And there's no guarantee it'll keep animals away. After a day or two that tent will smell like food. It might even be irresponsible when you consider animal learned behavior. Ideally tents are not food sources for these animals, but you leave a couple hundred pounds of spoiling meat and that will change. (though admittedly it'd be such an infrequent situation that it would pale in comparison to plain old butt head campers)

I'd leave the body for sure. I'd wrap it in a tarp as best I could, seal it up against the elements and haul ass to the nearest civilization to report it. I'd also leave a note, possibly a sign that can be read from off shore, warning people there is a dead body at the location. I'd hate to have someone accidentally stumble upon it after it's too late to switch sites.


Racoon - Raton_Laveur
(Login raton_laveur)
AA Forum Group

Oh My... What would one do ?

January 12 2010, 8:41 PM 

Shades of paddle,paddle.. carry canoe drag buddy come to mind
That and endless nights of not sleeping

Seriously, I hope this never happens but we all know that
it could sad.gif

I don't think one can predict what one would do as the situation
will definately affect any sensible reasoning at the time.

Assuming that all possible first aid/caring continued till
Rigormortis set in , I would hope that I'd be capable of :

Leaving the body where it died.


1. If access was less than a day away then I'd likely
paddle or walk/run like stink to AP to
report the issue.

2. If farther than one day, I think I'd start searching for another
party and/or start walking out on one of the many roads that exists in hope
of meeting a vehicle soonest.

I think on the day that somebody died in my sole presence ,
I'd pray to hear or see any sign of logging taking place nearby!

Rac happy.gif happy.gif n

(Login FredForest)
AA Forum Group

Re: When Someone Dies in the Park

January 12 2010, 9:24 PM 

All depends on where you are in the park but some things would be well advised regardless.

I usually have a pen/paper or some kind of journal. I am a lawyer, so bear with me! Sit down and make a written record of what happened while it is fresh in your mind. Take your time and make sure you detail the series of events. Not only will the police, investigators appreciate it, the family of the deceased and your lawyer, if you need one, will appreciate it. I would be inclined to take the body out with me but on sober(wishful thinking, did I mention I'm a lawyer) second thought I think I would do my best to protect it. Causing an indiginity to a human body is a criminal offence and dragging a body back to an access point may not be viewed lightly by a police officer, or family member, so I'm inclined to make a good plan, leave excess baggage behind, and lead the police back to the scene when I would then collect up my things and point them to the corpse. I would then see who could give me a lift out.

(Login algoalex)
AA Forum Group

Re: When Someone Dies in the Park

January 13 2010, 12:44 AM 


you do realize that you don't have to scrape the person's head along the gravel as you pull them across the access point, right?
having him on your back or in a stretcher will do.
a bit like the paramedics do,

and if a charge lay on me for this *indignity* caused about a human body,
it will be asked how negligence of preventing the body from being opened by beasts is not indignity caused about the body. and if it is argued back that this feast could not have been known to happen, it can be argued back that nor could it be known the knocking of the head against a tree en route home. and if some other sense of indignity is meant, such as moving the body in inappropriate ways, it will be asked how the paramedics round this obstacle, and if their maneuver-training was shaped by quantities of indignity (and not by plain technique), and if it was, the practice of foul maneuvers by me would have to be proven, which cannot exactly be done. Those maneuvers would be inferred by the presence of marks on the body, and if a charge will then lay, so too for the paramedics who trip while carrying a victim, for it cannot be known that my trips did not cause the marks.

Anyway how ridiculous it is this idea. That an officer will 'not take lightly' the idea that you are carrying someone. That officer need sit down one long night to properly think on himself and his dispositions. I would not for one instant fear this kind of outcome of bringing back my dead friend. Indignity.. Even once it is established that indignity is caused about a body, anything you contrastingly would have done (put them into a canoe, buried them, bagged them, tarped them, raised them onto a shelf) will have to be considered indignity no less; and your only safe alternative was to walk away from the body and go home, and leave it awkward on the portage to scare children and make meal for animals, and lay there as leaves fall, in puddles and mud, leg that way arm this way, through the black night and into pale blue morning-- still it's there-- just bitten a bit. Though this should class as indignity too (just in the form of negligence). And perhaps more. It is expected you paddle home and do not move the body from its location, and do not wrap it or float it or anything, for these cause it indignity along their processes, and you reach the access point and tell no one but the family, because it is indignity to move the body, and authorities you know will move the body. You don't inform them because by doing so you are instigating the event of indignity.

That law come into this raw and terrible time to punish is sickening.
And on those grounds is something shameful.

(Login algoalex)
AA Forum Group

Re: When Someone Dies in the Park

January 13 2010, 3:40 AM 

just to throw some cents

i think all the ideas are quite good except for the submerge one but i am not sure how sincerely that was meant lol. in case it was meant honestly, i think that strategy might be problematic due to the increased decomposition rate (in water), and fish nibbling and snapping turtles and those sort of lucky underwater creatures, and it is also wildly extreme when i think about it-- not that there is much wrong with being extreme. i think u'd more likely make the paper if that was your method, that's all. when a body is left according to any of the other methods, wrapping it tightly in plastic bags (around the limbs and main body) has to help significantly trap the scent from luring animals in, and waterproofs. or tarp, as SM pointed. i think i'd lean to the burring idea, or to the float in canoe one (for its exceptional security against other animals). a contraption can be easily made (with a tarp) to slide rain and splash away from entering the boat. and the boat can be towed to a cozzy bay where the wind does not go nor the waves, and anchored out there decently from shore. the tent option i really dont think is that bad when we are talking about 2 days or so. though zeb made a good point about animal learned behavior, however harmful that (leaning) may turn out. quite serious it is a single bear coming to trust that tents contain a fabulous feast that does not fight back. other things i think are extremely important are to leave flagging to draw people toward the site (wherever it is), and waterproofed notice about your identity, the person who died, where the body is, what happened, what your route back is, what your expectations are, grid cords for the body, etc. a pencil and paper (for them to make copy of yours), a request for them to SPOT or sat phone (i dont think 911 on SPOT, or use of a PLB, is proper here), and for them to spread the word. this can accelerate action being taken. leaving brief notes on popular portages (on signs) on your way back can further assist. and as FF stated, recording details is important for family and police and god forbid the court. personally i would carry out if i had one more person with me (almost no matter where i was). if i was alone i would seriously consider the attainability of this, with regard to it being done and with regard to how quickly it can be done, and with considerations as to my own safety as a result of this evac. oh and someone mentioned roads--- good thinking.

(Login Roovs)
AA Forum Group

Re: When Someone Dies in the Park

January 13 2010, 9:57 AM 

"There was a recent occurrence, 2007, where the noted Cdn artis, Ken Danby died while in the park in North Tea Lake. Heart attack I believe, he was in his late 50s. Maybe they had a cell and called out (coverage there?) or one of their group high tailed it back through Amable du fond to the access, as paramedics were quickly on the scene apparently.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Danby"

My brother and I were coming out of North Tea from Lorne on this day, a Sunday. At the North Tea/Amable du Fond portage we met a group of about 8 friendly people in their late 50s and early 60s around noon. We spoke with them for a few minutes and basically recounted the weather for the past three days and remarked about what a nice sunny day it was to be heading into the park, and how we were going in the wrong direction. At the time we didn't know that Ken Danby was in this group (we pieced it together afterward). We headed up the portage trail and they out onto North Tea. A helicopter passed over head sometime before we got back to Northern Wilderness Outfitters (~2 hours from portage to NWO). I can't be certain, but I'm guessing this helicopter was responding to the call, and there is no way they paddled out in my estimation for help. They had to have been able to contact someone. If they didn't have a spot, maybe they were able to flag someone down with one. It was very clear and sunny, several people out on a point waving and screaming were likely to attract the attention of passerbys as it was busy that day, mostly with people coming out of the park. I was unable to get a cell phone signal in that area or at NWO and needed to borrow their land line to call my gf (now wife) to let her know we had made it out okay, so I'm guessing they didn't use a cell. Another possiblity is that there were some guides from the local outfitters on Kawawaymog, carrying two-way radios to communicate with their base and could raise help that way possibly if they were able to signal them.


(Login Preacher23)

Re: When Someone Dies in the Park

January 13 2010, 10:37 AM 

Happy to be learned about sinking the body. My thinking was that it's basically a fridge with the water at the bottom being a constant ~4C. Critters could be dealt with by wrapping the body in a tarp. Bloat is alleviated by the grim task of poking a hole or three.

(Login kayamedic)
AA Forum Group

what to do

January 13 2010, 11:09 AM 

its only happened to me once on a day trip on a river.

We had a party that had adequate support to do CPR while others went for help. Of course we knew that CPR was going to be ineffective because the rescue time was several hours, but at least we did all we could and could report to the widow that we tried.

(Login FredForest)
AA Forum Group

Re: When Someone Dies in the Park

January 13 2010, 8:05 PM 

The law is an ass! Not my words but very commonly uttered, even by those in the legal profession.

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