Darren Bade planned to spend his Saturday evening kayaking in the Cuyahoga River. When the Kent State biology professor approached the stretch of the river south of the West Main Street bridge in Kent, his kayaking trip turned into a rescue mission.
“I was kayaking here, and I was hiking back up the river when somebody was yelling that there [were] some people in the river.”
Onlookers in the Over Easy on The Depot restaurant’s parking lot, and along the West Main Street bridge, could see what fire officials said was a mother and her daughter struggling in the water. They yelled to Bade to help them.
He got back in his kayak and paddled north—when he saw the pair, he got out of his kayak.
“I quickly got back in [the water] … and assisted them to get kind of out of the water and on the island until the fire department could come over and get them from there.”
The girl “didn’t look like she was doing real well,” Bade said. “By the time I got to her, I don’t know if she was breathing or not.”
The fire department received a call of a possible drowning at 6:58 p.m. Kent Fire Capt. David Moore said. The Kent Fire Department responded to the scene, along with branches of the Portage County Water Rescue Team, which is a collaborative effort between fire and police departments throughout Portage County.
After Bade pulled the mother and daughter to safety, two police officers were deployed into the water to help them return to the mainland.
“The child appeared to be barely conscious,” Moore said. “So that kind of … expedited our efforts to get out there as quick as possible.”
Officers Matt Moore and Samantha McNulty were already situated on the island, and they risked their own lives to save the lives of others.
“We always deploy at least one officer, if not two,” said Capt. Moore. He added, “They quickly prioritized it as a quick rescue…because of the age [of the child] and the circumstances.”
“We got two rescue swimmers immediately out there to stabilize the situation, and then we got a boat across to bring back mom and the child,” Moore said. It was still unclear Saturday evening where and how the mother and child entered the river.
Both were rescued from the water by 7:31 p.m. and transported to Akron Children’s Hospital.
“The child was out well ahead of that, so I would say within 25 minutes we had them out of the water,” Moore said. “When the child left and mom left they were both alert and conscious, so that’s good news.”
“By all accounts, it was just a really serious accident,” Moore said. “A mother and a child were spending time in the park in the dam area, and the child, at some point, bolted towards the water.”
Within minutes, the child was carried away by the current and into the water shoot, Moore said. Her mother, watching from the shore, jumped in the water after her daughter in a moment of pure panic.
The mother’s quick thinking was ultimately what saved her child’s life, Moore said, because she was able to keep track of her daughter as she bobbed up and down in the river.
The mother and daughter were eventually able to make it to an island, but they struggled to actually get up on the ground before Bade jumped in to help. Both the mother and child were at risk of hypothermia, because even if the weather is warm, the water can still be frigid in temperatures.
The temperature of the water in the river was between 57.6 degrees and 59. 7 degrees according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In water ranging between 50 degrees and 60 degrees in temperature, hypothermia symptoms can set in within an hour, according the useakayak.org. Loss of dexterity can occur within 15 minutes, exhaustion can set in within two hours and the expected time of survival is between one and six hours.
For safety reasons, Moore said, “we highly recommend people to be careful in and around the water.”
The child was set to be released from the hospital Sunday, Moore said.
Bade has been actively kayaking for over 20 years, and he just so happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“Most of my kayaking these days is in the area where the rescue happened, so I’m very familiar with the river there,” Bade said via email.
According to Bade, he is also involved in the Keel-Haulers Canoe Club, located in Westlake, OH.
The organization has been around since 1967, according to their website, and they host a wide array of recreational activities, including kayaking, canoeing, and boating.
“They offer lots of training opportunities, and last year I was able to attend a swiftwater rescue course they organized,” said Bade via email. “This definitely helped out in the situation on Saturday.”
Zaria Johnson is editor-in-chief. Contact her at [email protected]
Morgan McGrath is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]