Local News

Kayakers Rescued From Raging Haw River

Posted August 31, 2004

— Rising waters fueled by the remnants of Tropical Storm Gaston quickly became a dangerous situation for two kayakers on the Haw River in Chatham County.

Rescuers managed to get the father and son to safety, but at a cost.

Too much water along the river flipped Nathaniel Nakutis' kayak, tossing him under the current.

"My life flashed between my eyes when I was stuck under water. I'm lucky to be alive now," he said.

Nakutis' father's friend helped him to the small island 200 feet from shore, where they waited to be rescued.

Emergency officials said they received the call around 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Twenty firefighters from the North Chatham Fire Department launched a boat and pulled the men to safety one by one. The rescue effort took two hours, cost the county thousands of dollars, and sent one firefighter, who collapsed from dehydration, to a hospital for treatment.

Nakutis will not be charged with a crime and he will not be billed for the rescue. A couple of years ago, the Chatham County sheriff wanted rescuees to pay, but attorneys said it was not legal.

"We've been through this many times in this county and it never results in anything," said Chief Mark Rigsbee of the North Chatham Fire Department. "It is [frustrating], especially when someone is injured. We wouldn't have had to be here if they weren't on the river."

It is not the rescue Riggsbee minds -- it is the unnecessary risk.

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