Tacoma firefighters rescued a man stranded in the water off Browns Point early today after his kayak overturned.
A crew aboard the fire boat Commencement transported the man to shore shortly after 4:30 a.m. He was taken to a local hospital for evaluation, fire spokesman Joe Meinecke said. The man had been wearing a life jacket.
It was not immediately known why the man was in the water in the middle of the night or how he got stranded. He'd been out with a canoe and kayak that were tied together with a 15-foot rope. Tacoma police were reportedly investigating the incident.
The incident woke up several residents in the Browns Point area, including Louie and Debbie Key. The two were sound asleep in their Browns Point home when Debbie Key awoke to a noise outside about 3:40 a.m. They could hear someone calling for help, Louie Key said.
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"You could tell this was a genuine terror-stricken yell for help," he said.
The couple opened their sliding glass door as they tried to figure out what was going on and where. The water was calm.
"It was pitch dark," Louie Key said. "(There were) overcast clouds so there wasn't any moonlight."
Louie Key got in his car and drove to the Browns Point Lighthouse while his wife called 911. Armed with a flashlight, Louie Key walked down to the beach area and spotted another couple who had also heard the cries for help.
As they looked around, a Tacoma police officer drove up. The officer told the neighbors that a man had called 911 after his kayak overturned. He was stranded in the water and adrift, Louie Key said.
Louie Key and one of the neighbors got into Key's motorboat and headed out into the water in search of the man. Meanwhile, Debbie Key stood on the couple's patio with a pair of binoculars. She spotted the man stranded in the water and called Louie Key on his cell phone to provide guidance.
Louie Key said an anchored cargo ship turned on its lights. The fire boat also was searching the water.
The stranded man was found a short time later. The fire boat crew pulled him out of the water as Louie Key pulled up.
Louie Key towed in the man's overturned kayak and canoe. He said the canoe was vertical in the water. The kayak had overturned, was full of water and floating just below the surface. It was also cracked.
Louie Key said he and his wife have lived in their home for about 20 years. He kayaks in the Puget Sound. Today was the first time he'd been part of a rescue effort.
"I haven't had to pluck anybody out of the water before," he said. "Very bizarre."