Injured kayaker airlifted to safety

June 10, 2014 

An injured kayaker whose name is being withheld at this time is a 34-year-old, Sacramento resident.

The victim was part of a 5-man Kayaking Team that started a river journey down the San Joaquin River-Middle Fork near Devils Postpile early Friday morning. The group made it as far as Balloon Dome when a distress signal through a registered messaging device was sent out by the party around 11:58 a.m.

Knowing how rugged and dangerous the terrain in this area can be, the sheriff's office requested aerial support from the California Highway Patrol.

By 1:08 p.m., H-40 located the group and, with the help of a medic on board, was able to hoist the injured kayaker out.

H-40 landed at Batterson Station near Highway 41 (just north of Oakhurst) to place the injured man on board, and then transported him to California Regional Medical Center.

Sheriff Anderson says from the moment the sheriff's office was contacted to the time the kayaker was located and hoisted to safety took roughly 90 minutes. Sheriff Anderson credits the emergency messaging device for the swift completion the Search & Rescue operation.

According to California Highway Patrol H-40 Air Operations, the kayaker became injured when he reached a lower pool below Balloon Dome and was sucked under the water vertically. He immediately attempted to ditch his kayak – making it most of the way out, with his feet still inside – when he got pulled under a second time. He managed to break free but suffered injuries to both his lower legs during his daring escape.

The incident happened at the base of Balloon Dome (sheer canyon), but H-40 was able to land above the group on flat granite.

The hoist mission was carried out – on board Air Ops were two medics and the Pilot.

The kayakers had registered with Spot Alarm – which enables them to send OK pre-planned messages during their travel, and if needed, can hit the SOS button if in distress.

The SOS signal led CHP directly to the location. There was no need to search. CHP says the signal was literally spot on.

The injured kayaker was taken to CRMC – Community Regional Medical Center.

— Madera County Sheriff's Office

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