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Rescue on lake

By:  Star Beacon - Doris Cook

ASHTABULA — Bob Johnson, an experienced water sports buff, didn’t panic Wednesday night when his kayak overturned in Lake Erie down in the harbor district breakwall area.

The 49-year-old Ashtabula resident ended up in the cold lake for about 15 minutes before a U.S. Coast Guard crew got to him.

“I’m more embarrassed about this happening to me. I’m OK and just cold. I thank the Coast Guard for coming out,” he said.

Johnson can also thank his close friend, Jesse Sarell, 30, of Ashtabula, who spotted from the shore what was happening when a wave apparently swamped the kayak. Sarell immediately called 911 bringing the Coast Guard and Ashtabula city and township fire trucks to Lake Shore Park area, off Route 531.

USCG Boatswain Mate 2 John Stottmann got the emergency call. A crew of four including Stottmann took off in the station’s 30-foot rescue craft.

“We got the call someone was in the water between Pinney Dock and the park. We picked him out of the water and got his kayak back aboard. He was in the water about 15 minutes and had a wet suit on with a life preserver,” Stottmann said.

Johnson said when he started paddling in the kayak the lake was pretty flat. “The strap broke on what is called a skirt to keep water out. An off shore wind whipped up. When the strap broke and my body shifted I flipped and slid out of the kayak,” Johnson said.

Usually Johnson and his friends, who do extreme water sports, use Conneaut city harbor for kite boarding. He also teaches sailboating skills in the summer to youth from area schools connected to the Spirit of America program.

“You never go alone (in a kayak), but have a spotter for safety. Jesse was my spotter on shore. I’ve been kayaking for 30 years. Sometimes things happen like this, and you just can’t panic,” Johnson said headed to get into dry, warm clothes left back at Lake Shore Park.

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