Two people in a boat rescued a man in a kayak who was pulled under water due to a strong current near the Onalaska Spillway.
At about 1:55 p.m., Onalaska first responders and the La Crosse Dive Unit was called to the area of 1st Avenue S. and Irvin Street near the La Crosse Regional Airport.
Ashley Newman was fishing on some nearby rocks when she noticed the strong, fast current knock the young male kayaker out of his boat. He was then pulled in and out of the water and she could only see his arms coming out of the water.
Newman called 911 as people in a passing boat were able to pull the kayaker out of the water.
"It was terrifying and you could tell he was really struggling," Newman told News 8. "If they wouldn't have come over and saved him, I don't think he would have made it."
A sergeant with the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department told News 8 the kayaker, whose name has not been released, was able to walk away from the scene with minor cuts.
The dive rescue team hopes people use this incident as a safety reminder, especially as we head into one of the busiest boating weekends of the year. And make sure to wear a personal flotation device (PDF).
"He did have a PFD on and for all we know, that could have very well have saved his life," said Shawn Mahoney, Dive Unite Leader with the La Crosse County Sheriff's Dive Unit. "Stay away from dams and spillways, they are a very dangerous, very strong current in those areas."
The Dive Team went out on the water after the man was rescued to retrieve the kayak that was stuck by the spillway.