How a life jacket and a whistle saved a kayaker’s life on the Chesapeake Bay
A life jacket and a whistle. It was these two items that helped to save Sean Danielson after his kayak overturned in the cold, deep waters of the Chesapeake Bay last month. He waited for nearly three hours as the sun descended, suffering from hypothermia before he was rescued by boaters.
With the help of Maryland Natural Resources Police, Danielson, 44, met the four people Wednesday who rescued him that mid-April evening as police honored them for saving his life. He doesn’t remember all of the details about the rescue because he was in and out of consciousness.
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On the day of his ordeal, he said he went out about 3 p.m. in his kayak near the West River and headed north into the Chesapeake. Using a tool that measures water depth, he wanted to find deeper water to catch fish, but then a wave came “out of nowhere” that flipped the kayak, he said. While in water 20 feet deep, he said, he tried unsuccessfully to flip it upright.
20 feet is as good as mile. There are lot of people out kayak fishing
these days in cold weather. I understand the fishing, but not out there alone with no possible help.
“I tried to bail the water out but the waves would come and fill it,” he said.
It was early in the boating season and no boats were in sight. He blew his whistle, “hoping someone would hear it.” “I told myself to stay calm and stay with the kayak,” he said.
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Shortly before 8 p.m., two people on a 36-foot sailboat — Robert and Lana Lohe of Edgewater, Md. — were coming back from a trip to the Bahamas when they saw something in the water.
At first, Robert Lohe thought it was a patch of grass about a quarter-mile away. His wife thought it was a piece of carpet. Then they heard the whistle. As they maneuvered their boat closer, the couple saw Danielson waving his arms and shouting, “Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.” They lifted Danielson, who was stiff and blue, onto their sailboat, wrapped him in a blanket and called for help. Two other boaters — William Walls and Mark Marra, also of Edgewater — raced to the location in their 29-foot fishing boat after hearing the call over the radio.
Danielson was barely conscious and suffering from severe hypothermia. The boaters took off his wet clothing, wrapped him in blankets and rubbed his limbs for warmth. Robert Lohe said if Danielson “hadn’t stayed with the kayak, we never would have seen him. Without those things, he would have been gone.”
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Candy Thomson, a Natural Resources Police spokeswoman, said what made Danielson’s situation unique was that no one was looking for him at the time. “We don’t often have happy endings when the situation is so dire,” she said. “But [Danielson] survived because he did three things: wore his life jacket, had a whistle and stayed with his lime-green boat so he could be seen as it got dark.”
Pretty lucky, I think.
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