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As many of you already know, Erik was in a very serious kayaking accident on Saturday, February 9, 2019 in Santa Cruz, CA. Below are the details of what happened, as relayed by Mikey Price, the incredible human being who saved Erik’s life.
Erik and Mikey set off on a 9 mile run down the San Lorenzo river around midday Saturday. They put in on the south end of the Henry Cowell park entrance on Highway 9. Jane, Mikey’s wife, coordinated to pick them up around 4:30 at the Paradise Park bridge. The ride started off well and they were having a good time, however, several times they decided to portage due to rapid water and challenging conditions. With about a fifth of the run left, they rounded a curve and immediately t-boned a log, which ejected them both. Mikey was able to right himself but he could not locate Erik. He searched for a couple minutes, fearing Erik might have been swept into an inaccessible area were rapidly flowing water was depositing a lot of debris, he knew he could not go into that area or he would drown. He kept looking between the debris and the shore and at one point stepped on something soft beneath the water and thought it could be Erik. He reached down under the water and found Erik was trapped, his clothing hooked to a log. It took several attempts, using great strength, to free Erik. Mikey pulled Erik to the very narrow river bank which was against a hundred-foot cliff. He and checked for vitals and found that Erik had no pulse and was not breathing. He gave Erik CPR in a very difficult position, holding him while they were both half in the water, breaking Erik’s sternum (correctly administered CPR breaks the sternum 30% of cases). He tipped him on his side to get him in a better position to get the water out of his lungs. After about 3 attempts, about 2 minutes, Erik vomited up a great deal of dirty river water. At one point Erik went into what Mikey described as a fight-mode, he was disoriented and extremely agitated. Mikey managed to calm him down and while still holding onto Erik, he went for his cell phone, which was destroyed. He searched Erik and finding his cell phone intact tried to find a signal to call 911. They were in a remote location where cell signals are sporadic, but he finally managed to get one bar by holding the phone out as far as he could. At 5:26 pm he reached 911 and briefed them on what had happened and told them about where he thought they were on the run. What is truly miraculous is that Mikey has just completed refresher courses CPR and Search and Rescue just five days before he and Erik made the kayaking trip.
For over four hours, Mikey held Erik’s body at the edge of the river, still half in the water the entire time due to the narrow bank and cliffs behind them. Both were developing hypothermia. The search and rescue crews had a difficult time locating them as the call dropped several times, eventually, GPS technology was used to pinpoint their location. Three rescue teams were searching, one coming down the river, one coming up, and one midway. The team that came upstream were the volunteer Ben Lomond Fire Department’s Swift Water Rescue crew. Coming from the bottom of the river neared Erik and Mikey, Mikey saw them coming on the opposite side of the river that they were on, and turned on his watch to signal to them. The crews used several technical rope-rescue systems and patient packing equipment to complete the extrication as safely as possible. Getting Erik back in the water and safely across, they put him in a stretcher basket. Mikey and five of the rescue crew carried Erik for a quarter of a mile over difficult terrain and back through the river again in Paradise Park. This is where the ambulance was waiting and able to transport Erik to Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz.
Erik had hypothermia, water in his lungs, and cracked sternum. Mikey had mild-hypothermia, a few bruises and stayed behind AMA (Against Medical Advice).
There are no adequate words to express the deep gratitude that Erik’s family and friends have for Mikey.
Erik is recovering at Dominican Hosptial, I will be updating with medical information.
Coverage of the rescue: https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2019/02/10/kayakers-rescued-from-swift-moving-waters-of-san-lorenzo-river/