Kayaker rescued from Brushy Creek Lake

Webster City man was clinging to tree branch

-Submitted photo
Ben Wescott, right, of Webster City, took a selfie with his rescuers, Conservation Officer Bill Spece, left, and Park Ranger Matthew Petersen, center, Thursday afternoon. Spece and Petersen went out onto Brushy Creek Lake in a boat to get Wescott, who was clinging to a tree branch after his kayak capsized.

Ben Wescott was kayaking on the huge lake at Brushy Creek State Recreation Area Thursday afternoon when he suddenly found himself in the cold, choppy water.

That experience and his rescue have given the 29-year-old Webster City man a new appreciation for park rangers and conservation officers.

“You never truly appreciate the DNR and sheriffs until you depend on them to save your life in the middle of the lake when you’re holding on to a tree,” he said.

Wescott said he was out on the lake for the first time this year when his kayak capsized.

”A big wave came up and flipped the kayak over,” he said.

Wescott got out of the kayak as it was rolling over. He was not wearing a life jacket. He said there was one in the kayak, but he didn’t think to grab it.

He estimates he was a half mile from the shore when he went into the water, which he said was very cold.

Initially, he held on to his overturned kayak.

”I started holding on to it until it seemed like it was sinking,” he said.

He then swan toward a tree branch that was sticking out of the water.

“I began swimming without my life vest to the nearest tree, which looked like it was a quarter mile away,” Wescott said. “I had never swam that distance before and it was a struggle because I am not a good swimmer. I swam on my back since that is the only way I can swim.”

Despite his unexpected plunge into the water, he still had his phone on him. While clinging to the branch, he first used the Snapchat story app to ask friends to call 911. Then he blew onto the phone speaker until it was dry enough that he could make a 911 call himself.

His calls for help were received at about 2 p.m. That help was not far away.

Conservation Officer Bill Spece and Park Ranger Matthew Petersen were in Brushy Creek State Recreation and heard the radio calls about Wescott’s situation, according to Capt. Matt Bruner, of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Bureau. Bruner reported that Spece was towing a boat used in an assignment earlier Thursday.

Spece and Petersen immediately responded to the lake’s west boat ramp and launched their vessel.

According to Bruner, they located Wescott within three minutes and got him into the boat.

He was brought to shore, where he was checked by members of the Dayton Rescue Squad.

”The EMTs came out and looked me over,” Wescott said. ”They thought I was in decent shape.”

Space and Petersen went back out on the water and recovered the kayak.

Webster County sheriff’s deputies also responded to the park.

Based on his experience Thursday, Wescott offers this advice for kayakers: don’t go out on the water when it’s windy and alway wear a life jacket.


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