TRUMANSBURG, N.Y. – A 31-year-old man who flipped over in a kayak Tuesday was “very lucky” to survive the 48-degree water, one of his rescuers said.


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Ithaca Fire Department Lt. Thomas Basher had his boat tied up at Crow Bar Point to get out of the wind when he and two other firefighters saw the kayaker flip over.

Basher said they were unsure if the man needed help until a 28-year-old female in another kayak began shouting and waving her paddle at them.

“When we got out of the crow we realized how bad the wind was,” Basher said.

He said the 28-foot cabin cruiser was blown away from the kayakers the first time they tried to get to them, but they were able to to circle the area and try again.

When they pulled along side the kayakers, Basher said the man in the water was in bad shape and couldn’t even pull himself into the boat.

“He just shut down completely,” he said. “This guy was very lucky, for sure.”

Officials said the man was taken to Cayuga Medical Center with hypothermia. It’s unclear what caused the kayak to flip over.

New York State life jacket rules say adults are required to wear them until May 1, but Basher said people should use their common sense and gauge water temperature and their own swimming abilities.

He said not everyone is as lucky as the person he saved from the water.

Two years ago, Cornell student Christopher T. Dennis went missing when he left a campsite for early morning canoeing on Cayuga Lake. His friends found an overturned canoe in the middle of the lake and alerted authorities, news reports say.

Land, air and water searches for Dennis were unsuccessful.

Basher said he remembers the search and wonders if things could have been different if Dennis had been wearing a life jacket.

“The water is still ice cold,” he said. “Cold moving water is a very dangerous thing.”

New York State Life Jacket Rules This Memorial Day weekend, as the sun warms your family party, remember our area…

Posted by Ithaca Fire Department on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.