First responders head for the scene of a multi-kayaker brawl. Photo: Botetourt County Department of Fire & EMS

Criminal Charges in James River Kayak Brawl

Police along Virginia’s James River Water Trail are investigating an unusual case. A group of kayakers is accused of participating in an assault and battery incident near Buchanan, Virginia.

Several people have been arrested, according to the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office. On Saturday afternoon around 4 p.m., sheriff’s deputies responded to reports of a “physical altercation” near mile post 39 of the Water Trail.

Virginia State Police and the Botetourt County Department of Fire and EMS Special Operations Water Rescue Group both helped in searching for the scene of the reported assault, since the crime scene was only accessible by water.

Between the Town of Buchanan boat landing and the Arcadia boat landing, officers say they found an intoxicated kayaker along with a female companion, both of whom had been involved in the melee.

The sheriff’s office says the man and woman had lost their kayak and paddle and the rest of the group left them behind. “They later rejoined the group, confronting them about being left behind and a physical altercation ensued,” the sheriff’s office says. Others in the group allegedly joined the brawl and one kayaker suffered a head laceration after being struck in the back of the head with a paddle.

Five people from nearby Goodview and Hurt, Virginia were arrested for their alleged involvement in the brawl. The suspects were both male and female, ranging in age from 23 to 31 years old. The charges include assault and battery, malicious wounding and public intoxication.

“The Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to maintaining the safety and security of our citizens,” said Sheriff Matt Ward. “Unsafe or illegal activity on our waterways will not be tolerated.”

According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, it’s not only illegal, but dangerous to operate a watercraft under the influence of alcohol. That goes for shallow, near-shore water, and for passengers, too.

The department says, “With the inherent dangers of being on the water, passengers falling out of boats are at risk of drowning. Walking the shoreline close to the water, or walking on docks or piers can be hazardous for those using intoxicants.”

In this case, the sheriff’s office and fellow agencies responded before things got even more dangerous.

“This incident was a great showing of strong relationships within the public safety agencies in Botetourt,” said the Department and Fire and EMS in a Facebook post. “We are thankful that we have the resources to be able to help in situations along the waterways.”

-Meg Walburn Viviano