A personal flotation device saved the life of a kayaker who flipped over in the Naptowne Rapids area of the Kenai River on Tuesday morning. The kayaker, who is still unidentified, made it to shore safely.
"When we got the call we had two different things going on," said Jack Sinclair, acting area superintendent for Alaska State Parks.
His agency already was responding to the discovery of Stephen Boyer's body when the kayak overturned in the rapids.
"Dealing with a live body in the water is a critical situation where we need to get to that person quickly," Sinclair said.
Gary Hale, fire marshal at Central Emergency Services, said the kayaker flipped over at Mile 18 of the Kenai River at 9:37 a.m. but had no medical problems when he was rescued.
Adam Bell, a firefighter and paramedic at CES, said the kayaker was able to swim to shore.
"They took him down to catch his kayak and that's the last we know about it," Bell said.
Sinclair said even though Naptowne Rapids aren't considered very big, usually a class II or class III by rafting standards, they're still treacherous. Bing's Landing is the last opportunity for most boats to pull out of the river before being caught in the rapids, after that Sinclair said there's not much chance of getting to shore.
"A powerboat may even pull out at Bing's Landing," he said. "The entire river is not a rapid, not from shore to shore. A person could easily avoid the bad spots with some skill in paddling, but those who may go through the worst part may find themselves in challenging water."
Tackling the rapids at low water isn't much more than maneuvering a boat around rocks and ripples, Sinclair said. But rising water can turn those rocks and ripples into a dangerous trap for paddlers.
"We recommend that anyone in the river have some flotation device on their body," Sinclair said. "There's all kinds of things that will give people a second chance once they get in the water, and a life jacket is the most important thing."
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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