Ben Westcott was kayaking on the huge lake at Brushy Creek State Recreation Area on Thursday afternoon when he suddenly found himself in the cold, choppy water.
This experience and his rescue gave the 29-year-old from Webster City a new appreciation for park rangers and conservation officers.
“You never really appreciate the DNR and the sheriffs until you depend on them to save your life in the middle of the lake when you’re clinging to a tree,” he said.
Westcott said he was on the lake for the first time this year when his kayak capsized.
“A big wave came in and knocked the kayak over,” he said.
Westcott got out of the kayak as he turned around. He was not wearing a life jacket. He said there was one in the kayak, but he didn’t think to grab it.
He estimates he was half a mile from shore when he entered the water, which he says was very cold.
Initially, he clung to his overturned kayak.
“I started hanging on to it until it looked like it was sinking,” he said.
He then turned to a tree branch sticking out of the water.
“I started swimming without my life jacket to the nearest tree, which seemed like a quarter mile away,” Westcott said. “I had never swum this distance before and it was difficult because I am not a good swimmer. I swam on my back because it’s the only way to swim.
Despite his unexpected dip in the water, he still had his phone on him. While clinging to the branch, he first used the Snapchat story app to ask friends to call 911. Then he blew on the phone speaker until he he’s dry enough to call 911 himself.
His calls for help were received around 2 p.m. This help was not far away.
Conservation Officer Bill Spece and Park Warden Matthew Petersen were at Brushy Creek State Recreation and heard radio calls about Westcott’s situation, according to Capt. Matt Bruner of the Department of Resources Law Enforcement Office. naturals of Iowa. Bruner reported that Spece was towing a boat used in a mission earlier Thursday.
Spece and Petersen immediately responded to the west lake boat launch and launched their ship.
According to Bruner, they located Westcott within three minutes and got him into the boat.
He was brought ashore, where he was checked by members of the Dayton Rescue Squad.
“The paramedics came out and checked me out,” Westcott said. “They thought I was in decent shape.”
Space and Petersen returned to the water and retrieved the kayak.
Webster County Sheriff’s Deputies also responded to the park.
Based on his experience on Thursday, Westcott offers this advice to kayakers: don’t get out on the water when it’s windy and always wear a life jacket.