A pair of Eastern Washington University football players may have prevented a tragedy last week on Long Lake.
On the evening of May 31, defensive linemen Dylan Zylstra and Ashton Boothroyd were fishing at the home of Boothroyd’s grandparents on the south bank of the lake when they noticed a kayaker struggling as he tried to turn against a fast current.
“People don’t realize how fast the river is going,” said Zylstra, who along with Boothroyd watched as the man flipped his kayak and spilled out of the small craft.
“I wasn’t sure if he needed help, but then he was crying bloody murder for help,” Zylstra added.
The man was wearing a life vest but was clad in only a shirt and shorts and “was closer to the other side when he flipped,” Zylstra said.
Hypothermia was an immediate danger as the kayak floated away and the man began to flail. The water, cooled by spring runoff, was “so cold it took my breath away,” said Zylstra, who judged it unwise to wade into the lake.
Fortunately, a neighbor owned a rowboat with a small motor for duck hunting. Minutes later, while local authorities were notified, Zylstra and the neighbor rescued the man.
“When I pulled him out, he had a death-grip on my arm,” Zylstra said. “We were just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”
Zylstra said the man could barely speak when he was rescued.
The man, who was not identified, was later examined and released by paramedics from Spokane County Fire District 9, which is based in Mead.