Home / National News / Survival Skills Credited in Kayakers' Rescue in Arizona


(WINKELMAN, Ariz.) — Three kayakers stranded in Arizona after river debris pierced their rubber rafts were rescued thanks to their survival skills, which included making a giant S.O.S. sign out of tree branches.

The kayakers — friends Ray Richardson, Heidi Nebeker and Kimberly Baker — were stranded after a few hours into their two-day trip along the 649-mile Gila River. Logs punctured their inflatable kayaks, leaving them in the woods.

“When the river got worse than we expected, we were really praying and we were concerned about being able to get out,” Nebeker said.

The group rationed what little food they had, ate desert food and filtered water, and after trying for nine hours, were able to send a text message to a friend saying they needed help. Then they got creative, building an S.O.S. sign.

Arizona state troopers in a helicopter spotted the sign and came in for the rescue.

Rescue crews said the kayakers did everything correctly.

“They didn’t get too excited, they didn’t enter into that panic state of mind. They actually had the presence of mind to create a ground signal,” said Ken Twigg, a rescue pilot with the state Department of Public Safety.

Despite the misadventure, the friends expect to return to the waters again.

“You know what, it was a great adventure,” Kim Baker said. “I loved it. I’m eager to go again sometime soon.”

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