A 13-year-old boy is recovering after a near-disastrous experience with a kiddie-pool raft at Sahoma Lake on Saturday, February 27th, when the raft deflated and began to sink, subjecting the boy to the frigid water of the popular Sapulpa fishing hole.
According to Sahoma Lake concessionaire Dwyane Elifrits, sometime between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm, a 13-year-old boy became a boater in distress. Elifrits described how the incident unfolded to Sapulpa Times.
“When I got here I observed this young man on the dock, over here by the boat ramp, airing up a raft…I really didn’t think much about it. Ellifrits said since knew the mariner was a “young guy,” he said he and his helper would “poke our heads out every once and a while to make sure that the guy was okay out there on the raft. It was kind of windy out there that day.” Elifrits emphasized had he known the boy was only thirteen he would have been “more involved.”
According to Elifrits, the inflatable raft was too small for the boy. “He was a pretty big boy, close to six foot tall. It was a little kid’s raft. It was something you would see a five or ten-year-old playing with in a pool.”
“I saw him out there fishing away. There were 8 or 10 people out on this dock next to him.
“Next thing I know, some lady comes in with a pair of binoculars, she said, ‘Hey, I think this guy is struggling out there.’ So I went out there and looked and it was evident that he was struggling. It looked like he had capsized but his raft had actually deflated. He was actually still kind of in it but his whole lower half of him was in the water. His feet were still on the raft and he was fighting to stay afloat.”
Elifrits immediately went inside and called 911 and said the youth had “capsized” and was in the water out in the middle of the lake. “Then I went out there and I’m keeping an eye on him and I’m yelling at him trying to get his attention and he finally heard me. I told him he was fighting the wind. I said ‘let the wind bring you to me.’ He started paddling with the wind and I could tell he was out of energy.
“I had a couple of magnets here with a couple of long ropes. I tied them together and put those magnets on the end; I just kept chucking them out to him. Eventually, I was able to throw 40 or 50 feet out there where he got close enough to grab onto the rope.
Then I pulled him in and struggled a little bit to get him up over the deck. He was out of energy, I finally told him, ‘Hey this is going to hurt,’ I reached down and grabbed him and yanked him up over the top rail. He was shivering and his arms were all purple, and he couldn’t stand.”
Elifrits took off his shirt and hoodie and gave them to the freezing youth. “He immediately told me ‘thanks so much for the hoodie.’ A couple of minutes later the fire department showed up, took over, and did what they did.”
Apparently, the child was not equipped to be out on the lake, especially in cool weather. Elifrits said, “He didn’t have a lifejacket on, didn’t have a whistle, didn’t have anything with him, just a t-shirt, jeans, his boots, and a backpack and a fishing pole.”
Thankfully the boy escaped the disastrous situation no worse for the wear. He came into the bait shop Wednesday to buy a new fishing rod.