Firefighters, police search for kayakers stuck in thunderstorm

FRANKENMUTH (WJRT) - (06/26/19) - Six kayakers made it safely to shore after finding themselves stuck in a thunderstorm on the Cass River.

A call came into Saginaw County Central Dispatch just before 9:40 p.m. Tuesday.

One of the kayakers was able to call for help, despite spotty cell coverage.

The group of six had been separated.

"Couple of the people in the group was a little quicker than the other ones, so we had some stragglers," said Frankenmuth Fire Chief Phillip Kerns.

The Frankenmuth fire and police departments were dispatched to look for them.

They didn't know where they were located or how many people they were looking for.

Mutual aid was called in from neighboring Bridgeport Township. Its fire department also has a rescue boat.

As both boats were launching, and the wind started to die down, they put another tool into use.

"We have a drone that has a thermal imaging camera on it so we were able to put that up," Kerns said.

Around the same time one of the kayakers made it to shore, as shown in drone pictures shared by the Frankenmuth Police Department.

Another kayaker was located at their home.

Meantime rescuers were braving the elements to search for the other four kayakers, which included an 11-year-old boy.

Emergency responders in the two rescue boats found them three miles upriver.

"They were just waiting on shore,"Kern said. "They were going to make a call to somebody to come pick them up."

The rescue effort took place a couple weeks after the departments held a joint training exercise on the Cass River.

It's something they practice, but hope to not have to use in the dark, during a thunderstorm, on a river with a current moving faster than normal due to the excessive rain.

"Everyone's safe and sound, and just ask people to have a good time but also think about their circumstances," Kerns said. "Check in with somebody. Make sure you got flotation devices with you, and maybe have some basic survival stuff in case you do get, have to weather a storm or something."

Rescuers later learned the group included four adult women, one adult male, and the 11-year-old boy. One was from Frankenmuth, the others were from Tuscola County.

Here is additional kayak safety information from the Frankenmuth Police Department:

-Bring essential safety gear including a personal flotation device that fits snugly, a spare paddle, and communication device such as a cellphone.
-Don't go solo. Plan your trip with a friend.
-Research the weather before you head out. Remember the weather can change quickly so be prepared.
-Always have a safety plan and let someone know where you will be kayaking.

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