Police bravery on display during Columbia County river rescue

July 31, 2019 07:01 PM

COLUMBIA COUNTY - At a time when others were seeking shelter, Columbia County Sheriff's Lieutenant Wayne Lopez, Sergeant John Rivero, and Investigator Ian Boehme were among those heading out onto the water, into the storm.

"It was very difficult because of the high winds, heavy rain, and also the hail," said Lieutenant Lopez. "The hail made it very difficult. We were getting pelted as we were responding from the dock southbound."

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The storms, one after another, were short but intense. 

The sheriff's office got a witness report of a capsized kayak Tuesday afternoon, and the rescuers' launch was captured on video. 

"We were worried about the hail and the visibility, and I think that when you have the high winds, there's always that chance that your boat is going to get pushed up into that dock," said Lieutenant Lopez.  

The kayaker, John Ward, was found unharmed.   

Reporter Emily Burkhard spoke to him Tuesday, as she covered storm damage in Greene County. He told her he had headed out for a quick paddle on a sunny day and the water was like glass. 

"As I'm coming back, the glass turned to whitecaps, really quick," said Ward. "The wind picked up, so I'm paddling. And I figured I could do it until the wind got stronger. So I said okay, I'm going to head to shore. So I started heading sideways, and then the wind took me and threw me in my boat, so I went over." 

Luckily, he had practiced capsize drills.

Fishermen who saw him go into the water called 911. 

The woman who shared the video of the rescue boat leaving wants people to remember the dangers law enforcement faces in service to others. Lynn Fisher wrote, "Much respect!"

We're told Greenport Fire, Greenport Rescue, and Hudson Fire also responded in the storm.  

In difficult conditions, all were focused on helping as quickly as possible. 

"We want to help people," said Lieutenant Lopez. "That's why we do it."


Kumi Tucker

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