Monday, September 1, 2014

Sarah Jones' Bear Lake Double aborted due to extreme hypothermia

When: Monday, September 1st, 2014 Start time: @3:40am Course: Cisco Beach boat ramp to Bear Lake Marina and back. Distance: 13.5 miles Swimmer: Sarah Jones - Sarah is a frequent swimmer with SLOW and member of South Davis Masters. She swam the Utah Triple Crown summer of 2014. She is an experienced and successful open water swimmer. Report written by: Gordon Gridley Crew: Steve Jones - Support Kayaker for the first width Gordon Gridley - Support Kayaker for the second width I drove to the marina to witness Lisa Gentile and Sarah finish their first leg of their double width crossing. Lisa exited the water north of the marina by the pavilion at approximately 7:40 am and within just a few seconds reentered the water to go back east. The sun had risen over the eastern mountains about 30 minutes prior to that. Using my binoculars I could see Sarah arriving about 10 minutes behind. I walked down to the water’s edge when Steve paddled up with Sarah right next to him. I quickly transitioned and got in the boat, yelled back to Steve to throw me his kayak which I put on. The sun was warm and the breeze was slight. It was the perfect morning for a swim. No threat of rain or storms whatsoever. Her time for the first leg: 4:10 When she stopped briefly at the shore, I could tell she was shivering a little and complained that she was a little cold. I told her we’d need to increase her stroke rate to get her warmed up and that the sun would also feel good as she’d just swam many hours in the darkness. She took feeds every 30 minutes like clockwork. Consisted of two different bottles one with a white cap, another with a black cap. I don’t know exactly what was in them, just that she has special homemade mixes that she swears by. She had buzz bites, fig newtowns and a banana for a solid food. The first two feeds were uneventful and relatively quick, she didn’t say much but just kept swimming. But at about the third feed she asked me how far she went. I didn’t have my GPS with me since Goody still had it from his length swim a couple days before. I estimated based on the time of 30 minute miles (which she’s probably much faster than that), that we were three miles into the return leg. She complained, “is that all?” After this she started to get really moody. She stopped only about 20 minutes after that one to complain that she was tired. She looked desperate for the swim to be over. She stretched and I asked if she wanted an early feed which she declined. She swam another 10 minutes and I gave her a feed. I saw that her stroke still had good form and that she was at 60 spm. Her feet were high in the water and she had a good two beat kick. About 5 minutes after that again she stopped and said, “I want Steve!” I reached for my phone, and realized, well he was on the east shore without a boat to get out to us. She shortly went back to swimming. Steve had taken my car from the marina back to the east side to get his kids up at camp and to watch over them. He had my cell number and I was hoping he’d call so I could at least have his number should I need him. This cycle continued for several rounds of swimming for 5 minutes and stopping. I asked her if she wanted to stop and get on the boat, she yelled out “No!” and that her seven year old daughter was expecting her to finish. I told her she should swim for 20 minutes without stopping. However she only continued for about 10 minutes and then stopped again. She again complained of being tired, and I could tell her speech was starting to slur. I asked her what her youngest daughter’s name was, She yelled out “What?” (She was wearing ear plugs) I yelled back, “What is your youngest daughter’s name? Your 7 year old!” She yelled back at me “Lauren! And she’s not my youngest daughter. That’s Clair!” And she gave me some daggers with her eyes that I’ll never forget. Like she wanted me to die right there and then. I figured if she could remember their names so clearly, and with such emotion that she was OK. But then again, to freak over something like that seemed quite odd to me, but I let it pass. But at the next feed I noticed her hand was shaking as she was pouring the liquid from her bottle into her mouth. Her eyes just seemed off to me. She kept asking how much further and was wasting so much time treading water complaining, that I didn’t feel right about it. I knew she was going to put up a huge fight about quitting, even if she was completely mentally with it, which she was not. I yelled back at her, “If you don’t get your head in and give me one straight hour of solid swimming, I’m gonna get you in those boat right here!” She was so fatigued she moaned “NO!” I started to count like a mean parent, “20!” “15!” All the while she just stayed there moaning “No! Stop! I can keep going!” But she wasn’t swimming. I saw a boat speed past us about 300 yards north of us, and I raised my paddle up high vertically in the air waving it back and forth and whistled as loud as I could, but with the sound of their engine they never heard me, and didn’t look south in my direction apparently. All the while Sarah is moaning “No! Gordon No! What are you doing!!!” I started to collect all my electronics, my wallet, anything else I cared about and put them in my waterproof container. I took a small pillow that I had stowed for my back and placed it in front of me. Even though there wasn’t a seat there, there would be room enough for one more person in front of me. I paddled up right next to her and yelled, “Grab the boat! You’re done!” Again the eye daggers of death were delivered, but I didn’t care, she was in never ever land. I was prepared in case she did something completely nutty like tipping me. She attempted to climb on board while I leaned far to the right to counter her weight. But we were taking on water. Even with my weight on the boat we only had about 3-4 inches of clearance to the surface of the water. She wasn’t even able to climb on board with the lack of strength anyway. So I jumped out and with the kayak between us, grabbed her hand and helped pull her on top of the kayak. She was able to get her left leg up on the kayak near the bow and I encouraged her to keep edging up on top. She was able to, but was off center. I went around to the other side and started to push her up more towards the centerline of the kayak to keep it from rolling. I covered her with a thin blanket I brought with me and her upper body with a jacket. I went back to the waterproof container and then realized I didn’t have Steve’s number. He hadn’t called me yet and I wasn’t about to call 911 yet. I asked Sarah what Steve’s number was, thinking there was no way she would remember. But about 20 seconds later she blurted it out. Thankfully I had the keypad up on my phone ready to dial so I quickly dialed it in. He answered and I explained to Steve that the swim was off and the she was in severe hypothermia and we needed his help getting a boat out to us. I said we were about 1.5 miles due east of Cisco beach, but realize now I meant due west.” Within approximately 10-15 minutes I heard a boat, but couldn’t see it up ahead and realized that it was coming from the west behind us. During that time I was breast stroke kicking behind the kayak trying to stabilize it at the same time. I took some video right after the call with Steve to capture her state of mind in case she wanted to see how bad she was gone. She did say a few things about how sad and disappointed she was, nothing to demonstrate her mental deterioration, but could still hear how slurred her speech was. When the boat motored up Daniel (the Utah State Park ranger) encouraged her to sit up in the kayak while he steadied her to step up onto the boat from the starboard side. I held onto the kayak pressing it into the rescue boat to ensure she didn’t fall back into the water. She was unable to climb into the boat with her own strength and Daniel had to lift her up. He got her to the front of the boat and covered with coats. I moved the kayak to the back of the rescue boat, climbed in and after Daniel had her wrapped up helped me lift it over the port side into the boat. I went to the front of the cabin and helped secure the coats around Sarah as we motored towards Cisco beach. She wasn’t talking, but shivering which was a good sign. When we arrived I could see an ambulance backed up and Steve and Richard (the Bear Lake Marina ranger) on the boat ramp. We asked Sarah if she could stand up, but we Daniel and I had to help her stand and walk slowly to the edge of the boat and up on to the ramp where Steve and Richard helped her up. We wrapped a blanket around her waist and asked the Ambulance operator to fully back up completely to the ramp so she didn’t have to walk on the rocks. We got her up into the ambulance where Steve and the EMT took over. About 45 minutes later, Steve came out and said that the EMT reported that her initial temperature was 78 degrees but had climbed up to 94 within 20 minutes. Oh my gosh, she was much worse off than I thought. I should have pulled her probably half an hour before that. She was in really bad shape, but thankfully we got her out no later than that and we had a quick rescue. Video of Sarah’s condition shortly after getting on the kayak:

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