Choppy waves swamp kayaks at Sand Hollow; 2 rescued

SAND HOLLOW STATE PARK   High winds and choppy waves at Sand Hollow Reservoir Friday afternoon capsized one kayak, leaving a young man clinging to its hull until rescuers arrived.

Benjamin Cheney, from Provo, spent an uncomfortable three hours in the water contemplating the fact that he wasn’t wearing a life vest and was far from shore.

“I’m just glad to be alive, honestly,” Cheney, 22, said after Sand Hollow State Park crews retrieved him from the rough lake waters during a wind gust. “I’m really grateful for the park guys, that they were out here doing their jobs and able to find us. It was only three hours, but it was a long three hours.”

Cheney was on the water with two friends, Ali Rawlins from southwest Missouri and Madison Parker from St. George. All three were in kayaks and not wearing life vests when winds picked up, pulling their watercraft further out on the open lake.

“We had smaller kayaks and tried to swim back, but one got swamped,” Cheney said. “Then we got separated, but fortunately Maddie was able to paddle in.”

Laura Melling, Sand Hollow Complex Park manager, said the three friends made a classic mistake.

“Always check the weather – this wind was predicted – stay close to shore and wear a life vest,” Melling said.

Both women said they were thankful for the quick response of rescue crews.

“It’s a new perspective when you’re out there,” said Rawlins of being caught in the harsh wind-driven whitecap waves. “You don’t think it’s that bad until actually you’re out there and then you realize how hard it is.”

Park rescue crews launched a boat to reach Cheney and Rawlins, who were later treated at the scene for mild-hypothermia.

Cheney said all three were in southern Utah for a quick getaway from their jobs at Jacob Lake Inn at the Grand Canyon North Rim.

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Twitter: @MoriKessler

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