An off-duty natural resources officer heard cries for help in the darkness near the Lander Boat Ramp, rescuing a hypothermic kayaker. Photo: Deborah Culler/C&O Canal Trust

Hypothermic Kayaker Rescued by Off-Duty Natural Resources Officer

It was a true case of “right place, right time” last week for a kayaker in trouble on the Upper Potomac River, and her story has a happy ending.

Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) say their own Officer First Class David Brown was off duty at the Lander boat ramp (Lockhouse 29 along the C&O Canal Towpath) around 5 a.m., getting ready to go waterfowl hunting with friends.

NRP Officer First Class David Brown

Before they could launch their boat, Officer Brown heard what sounded like a person screaming for help in the distance. NRP says the group immediately got their boat into the water and headed toward the person yelling in the dark morning.

Officer Brown and his companions found a 40-year-old woman clinging to a rock in the water. She was holding on with one hand and grabbing a submerged kayak with the other. NRP says she had been out kayaking since 9 p.m. the night before,and her kayak had capsized sometime in the night, hours before Brown found her.

She’d also lost her car keys and cell phone when she fell into the water.

Afraid to swim to shore due to the darkness and the strong Potomac River current, the woman felt trapped in place. Her hands were pale, cold and wrinkled and her lips were blue.

Officer Brown pulled the woman into his boat and called for an ambulance. Back at the boat ramp, EMS crews met Brown and the victim to rush her to the hospital. She was treated for hypothermia.

Officer Brown says the woman was wearing her life jacket when she fell out of her kayak, a factor that probably saved her life.

-Meg Walburn Viviano