KENT, Ohio — A kayaker in Kent who had just left the river Saturday evening heard shouts from two people struggling in the water, got back into his kayak and went to their rescue.
According to the Kent Fire Department, it happened around 6:56 p.m. in the river south of the Main Street Bridge.
Authorities say a small child fell into the water and her mother jumped in after her. A kayaker, Darren Bade, had just exited the river heard the two individuals struggling near an island downriver from the dam.
"I saw them moving toward the island and got in the water as quick as I could and paddled across to the island," Bade explained. "I was just in a big hurry to get down there."
"The water flow pushes people right into the island, which can be dangerous because there's travel hazards down there. So the baby and the mom were at the tip of that island," said Kent Fire Dept. Capt. David Moore.
Bade helped the woman and child out of the water and onto land. He told News 5 he credits the rescue training he took in the past year with the Keel-Haulers Canoe Club for helping him feel prepared for a situation like this.
"It took me awhile to get them on the island," Bade explained. "I had to hop and skip across the logs and it was in a fairly dangerous spot for them to be located."
Minutes later, two Kent police officers arrived and swam across the river to the island to help Bade.
The child was still breathing, but barely conscious and showing signs of drowning when she was pulled from the water.
“They were both very, very lucky," Moore said of the mother and child. "The water isn’t at the highest point that we see it, but it is moving fast. And it was deep enough water that they both could have easily drowned.”
A short time later, firefighters and the Portage County Water Rescue Team arrived at the scene. Two rescue swimmers swam to the island to medically assist the woman and child. A rescue boat was called in and the two individuals were taken from the island and transported to Akron Children's Hospital for treatment.
The latest conditions of the woman and child are unknown, but authorities said they were both conscious at the time of rescue.
"We commend both the kayaker...these officers for their heroic efforts," the fire department said. Additionally, members of the Portage County Water Rescue Team "played a vital role in assisting with this operation."
Capt. Moore said the situation offers a reminder to always use caution near bodies of water, especially during the spring and early summer when still frigid water temperatures can lead to hypothermia.
“Even a strong swimmer that doesn’t have any floatation or isn’t holding onto something can drown very quickly because that just takes their energy away,” he explained.
He added the popular stretch of the Cuyahoga River near downtown Kent has been a common place for water rescues, estimating crews have rescued around 30 people there in the past 5 years.
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