Coast Guard saves stranded kayakers in Northern California

MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. – The Coast Guard hoisted two people from the bank of the Mad River after they became separated from their kayak late Saturday night.

At approximately 8:45 p.m., Saturday night, the Coast Guard received a report of the missing kayakers on the Mad River from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and launched an MH-65C Dolphin rescue helicopter to search the area.

The kayakers, one man and one woman, launched a kayak into the Mad River at 2:00 p.m., from Maple Creek Ridge area and had arranged for family to meet them at the boat launch near the mouth of the Mad River at 5:00 p.m. After waiting past their estimated arrival time and unable to contact either person, the family of one of the kayakers contacted the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office who then passed the overdue case to Coast Guard Group Humboldt Bay.

Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay dispatched a helicopter at 9:15 p.m. to search the river from the Pacific Ocean upstream to the Maple Creek Ridge area. “We located their position, quite possibly the absolute worst spot on the entire Mad River to be stranded,“ said Lt. Cmdr. Brent Bergan, the pilot of the helicopter. The two kayakers had started a fire on the shore of the river after they had been separated from their kayak while navigating through an area of swift white-water rapids.

The helicopter crew lowered an emergency radio to the kayakers to facilitate communications. The pair reported that they were not expecting the challenging rapids and they lost contact with their kayak after paddling ashore to take a respite. The two requested to be hoisted into the helicopter as there was no way for them to hike out of the area due to the steep terrain on that bank of the river.

The Coast Guard crew then lowered the helicopter’s rescue basket to the survivors and hoisted them from the river bank one at a time. The two were turned over to emergency medical personnel at the Arcata Airport when the helicopter returned to the Coast Guard Air Station.

The Coast Guard strongly encourages all mariners and those recreating on the water to file a float plan with friends or loved ones. The fact that these kayakers had given their departure and destination information and estimated time of arrival to a family member directly led to their being rescued in an expeditious manner.

The Coast Guard also strongly encourages all mariners to put their name and contact information on any gear that may be lost on the river or at sea.

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