Trapped kayaker rescued from Eagle River

Paramedics, AFD save man pinned by fallen tree in a rain-swollen river.

Anchorage Daily NewsSeptember 16, 2012 

A kayaker pinned against a fallen tree in storm-swollen Eagle River was pulled from the water in a dramatic rescue Sunday afternoon. The man, who wasn't identified, was hypothermic and taken to an Anchorage hospital.

When rescuers arrived, the man was struggling to keep his head above the cold, rushing water, said Anchorage Fire Department Capt. Rick Bayless.

"He was holding his head out of the water with one hand on his kayak paddle," he said.

The man's kayak was jammed on a partially submerged log just across from the Eagle River Campground.

An off-duty Anchorage Police officer had heard an emergency call from someone onshore and had stood by offering moral support to the man while Fire Department rescuers in a jet boat rushed to find him, said Bayless.

The river, was running so fast and high that the water looked more like summer than fall, Bayless said.

"We discovered it was going to be very difficult to free him," he said.

The man told rescuers he was getting tired, Bayless said.

A chain saw was used to cut the log into pieces and free the trapped kayaker, Bayless said. It was under so much pressure from the water it had to be kicked out of the way.

After that, Bayless grabbed the man by his life jacket and helped maneuver him to shore.

The man was hypothermic, he said, but had improved by the time he arrived at the hospital.

The rescue took 20-30 minutes, he said, and involved more than a dozen Fire Department personnel, Bayless said.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com or 257-4344.

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