Man rescued after surviving 24 hours drifting in Lake Erie

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HURON TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- A Columbus-area man was hospitalized in good condition on Tuesday after he was rescued from Lake Erie.

Travis Casper, 34, was rushed to Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky after authorities said he spent 24 hours in the water.

Two men discovered him about a mile north of Sawmill Creek on Monday afternoon.

“About a mile off shore, I looked over and thought it was a fish flag because they are different colors, green, red out there but this one was white,” said Keith Riegelsberger from Avon.

It turned out to be an oar the men spotted waving in the 72-degree water with waves up to six feet high! Casper was found clinging to his submerged kayak.

“I thought he was mistaken at first because it was really rough conditions for anybody to be out those kinds of waters,” said Hap Carlson from Milwaukee, who was also in the boat.

“The gentleman said that he departed from the mainland and was kayaking over to Kelleys Island,” said Riegelsberger.  “And the way we understood from what he was able to tell us, he capsized at Kelleys and spent 24 hours in the water and the waves carried him 16 miles from Kelleys back to Huron.”

Riegelsberger and Carlson managed to pull the stranded man onto their boat. They called 911 and headed to the marina at Sawmill Creek where emergency responders were waiting.

“They arrived right when we were pulling in and they were very quick. They came on board and removed him with the backboard,” said Carlson.

Casper had been wearing a life jacket but he survived a night with tornado warnings, lightning and overall horrible conditions on Lake Erie.

“You could tell he was very white, very wrinkled up and he was saying he was very thirsty,” said Carlson.

The two men managed to save the stranded kayaker but the kayak broke apart after hitting a nearby break wall. Luckily, Casper is expected to make a full recovery.

“No, it’s not the day of pleasure boating but it’s what a boater would do. We help other people and help other boaters,” said Riegelsberger.

Both Riegelsberger and Carlson were praised by emergency personnel who responded to the scene and credit them for saving his life.

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