Rescued from the good fun

Published 7:49 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Many people visit Washington to experience the town, the waterfront, the restaurants and more. Some come for a weekend; others from nearer towns, make the trip in one day. Just as many locals love to do, an opportunity to get out on the water to experience the town’s greatest asset, the river, might be on the visit’s agenda.

Whether local or from out-of-town, when going out on the river, safety is a priority. Having right equipment (on a boat or any other vessel), letting someone know where you’re heading and when you’ll return should always be part of the plan. And you should stick to the plan, because here’s what could happen if you don’t.

Saturday, a couple paid for a full day’s rental of two kayaks at a local kayak shop. They took off at 10 a.m. and were instructed to be back before dark, as the kayaks did not have any lights, which would make them illegal to operate on the river at night. The couple agreed and the paddled out for the day-long adventure.

Except the day-long adventure extended into night. No one knew where the couple was; repeated calls to one of the kayaker’s cellphone went unanswered. Two hours after dark fell, the staff and owner of the shop felt they had no choice but to call in emergency responders.

And they came — Washington Police and Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS arrived within minutes of the call. Fire-Rescue-EMS’ boat was in the water moments later, followed by the arrival of volunteers with Bunyan Fire Department and their boat. Beaufort County EMS arrived on the scene, and on the other side of the river Chocowinity Fire and EMS dispatched its boat in the search for the missing kayakers. An ambulance arrived, a command center set up; a call put in to the Coast Guard.

Everything worked as it should. The response was immediate and like a well-oiled machine.

But it turned out the kayakers weren’t so missing, after all. They’d made some new friends and were hanging out on a sailboat. They’d lost track of time, not knowing that there were dozens of people, both paid and volunteer, who dropped everything to search for them. A lot of those people were also involved in the search for the two boaters who went missing the weekend before — a story that ended a lot differently, with the recovery of their bodies.

This type of response costs every one of the responding organizations money. It pulls people out of their beds and onto the roads and the water. It makes people expect the worst, but hope for the best.

The actions — though entirely innocent — of two, greatly impacted many. This is why you come up with a plan and stick with a plan, because what may seem like it’s all in good fun might just end with people coming to the rescue.