A kayaker didn’t suffer any serious injuries but had his friends and authorities worried Monday afternoon when he flipped out of his boat and wasn’t seen for 45 minutes, according to witnesses.
He was traveling along the Chattahoochee River with two friends when the rapids caused his boat to capsize at RiverWalk Island, witnesses said.
After a 45-minute search, Columbus Police spotted the man about two miles downtstream at Rotary Park, where he safely made it to shore around 1:30 p.m. The kayaker was transported to Midtown Medical Center as a precautionary measure.
“We think that in order to keep up with his equipment, he ended up about two miles downstream,” Tom Sweets said after he emerged from the water to check on his friend at the Whitewater Express business on Bay Avenue. “Usually when that happens, it’s usually because he’s looking for his paddle or something.”
Sweets said the boater was in the water for a frightening 45 minutes as the outside temperature stood in the mid 40s. The more time passed by, the more his friends became concerned about his saftey.
Sweets recalled a time when he saw someone swimming alone get lost in an even more dangerous river before being found dead in an underwater hole.
“When you experience something like that, you assume the worse,” Sweets said. “We all immediately got out of our boats, scanned all the rapids and looked up there to see if there was something we could do to rescue him.”
Ben Hatchett, who manages the Bay Avenue business, said they provided the kayaker with a warm shower and hot cup of apple cider after the incident.
Hatchett said the boater wearing a wet suit, dry suit and life jacket during the entire incident was instrumental to his safe return to shore.
“Some good advice is to definitely not wear anything cotton,” the business manager advised. “Wear some synthetic material and make sure you have a wet suit.”
Hatchett said people should invite a group of friends to explore the waters with them instead of doing it alone.
“Especially during the winter, you shouldn’t be out there unless you’re an experienced boater,” Hatchett said. “Make sure (the water) is at an acceptable level, especially with Georgia Power having their releases.”