Kayaking incident on Red Cedar River offers lesson in water safety

Kevin Grasha and Brittany Smith • kgrasha@lsj.com, brittanysmith@lsj.com • June 23, 2009 • From Lansing State Journal

A cell phone stowed in a plastic bag may have saved the life of a man whose kayak flipped over Monday in the Red Cedar River.

The 61-year-old Saginaw man, who would not identify himself to reporters, called 911 from his cell phone as he held on to his overturned kayak and floated at least a mile down the river. Authorities were able to figure out where he was by talking to him on the cell phone.

The man and the kayak eventually became lodged in some branches in a section of the river near Aurelius and Mt. Hope roads, and rescuers quickly found him, said Lansing fire Public Information Officer Steve Mazurek. At about 11:30 a.m., Lansing firefighters, using rope and several motorized water rescue boats, pulled the man out of the water.

“The last thing I did before I got into the water was put my cell phone in a plastic bag,” the man said. He was not injured.

It was a success story. But according to the Michigan Association of Insurance Agents, boating deaths reached a six-year high in 2008 with 36 fatalities, up from 35 the previous year.

Boat accidents also increased from 193 to 201 in 2007.\uFEFF

A fast response by rescuers and the decision to bring a cell phone — and protect it in a plastic bag — helped save Monday’s kayaker, who planned to take the river from Michigan State University to Grand Rapids.

The recent tragedy of East Lansing resident Robert Smith, 61 — who drowned after rescuing his granddaughter from the East Grand Traverse Bay on June 13 — shows that jumping in the water to save someone can be
dangerous.

It should be a last resort, according to 1st Lt. Mike Krumm of the Michigan State Police Training
Academy.

“It’s very demanding, and a lot of times we don’t know our limitations,” said Krumm.

“People become too exhausted and can’t hold the other person up and often times, both people drown.”

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