Michael Marshall and Raymond Edler paddled their kayaks across the glass-like surface of the Warren River on Friday, Aug. 10, soaking up the near-perfect conditions.
For Michael, his first-ever trip in a kayak was turning out better than he had imagined: a beautiful blue sky was shining down on the pristine East Bay coastline. The Bristol resident felt good as he and his friend paddled the kayaks away from the shore near the North Farm condominiums at around 11:30 a.m.
The 64-year-old disabled Vietnam War veteran said everything was going well for the early part of the trip, right up until he started moving across the river toward Rumstick Point. That’s when he noticed a powerboat speeding north from the mouth of the Warren River.
Mr. Edler and Mr. Marshall began to turn their kayaks toward the powerboat, hoping to slice through the rolling wake.
“We tried to turn into the wave, but we didn’t have an opportunity,” Mr. Marshall said. “They were 25, 50 feet away … It (the wake) hit us and flipped us. We both got dumped into the water.
“The next thing I know, I’m not feeling right.”
While both kayakers were wearing life jackets, Mr. Marshall said he was struggling to keep himself above the water. He said he could feel himself sink down about 18 inches below the water’s surface: “I was looking up at the sky through the water. … I was trying to breathe under-water. … I was going into cardiac arrest.”
Mr. Marshall was suffering a full-blown heart attack.
An impressive rescue effort likely saved Mr. Marshall’s life that day, and now the Bristol man is trying to track down the men on the powerboat who he believes nearly killed him. Mr. Marshall is offering a $1,000 reward for more information about the boat that tipped the kayaks.
“These guys were laughing when they went by. These guys didn’t even turn around,” Mr. Marshall said.
“I’m trying to find out who did this to me. I’ve got a $1,000 reward to anyone who can give me information about these guys … or who witnessed it.”
The 5-foot-8, 240-pound former police officer said he could hear his friend yelling for him to keep kicking while he sunk below the water. He said Mr. Edler pulled him above the water and then flagged down two other kayakers who were nearby.
Mr. Edler held onto Mr. Marshall as the other kayakers towed the men toward the Rumstick Point shoreline.
Once they reached the sandy beach, Mr. Edler ran across the marsh to the nearest home, hollering for someone to “Call 911!” A resident’s call was answered and just a few minutes later Barrington firefighters and EMTs ran across the unwieldy marsh and small rivers separating the Rumstick neighborhood from the shore.
The rescuers began to assess Mr. Marshall’s condition and quickly realized they would not be able to transport him back across the marsh to the waiting ambulance.
Meanwhile, about a mile north of the incident, Bob Hughes, an assistant harbormaster with Barrington, was already motoring south from Hundred Acre Cove toward the Warren River.
“I heard the fire dispatcher send the rescue and fire engine to Rumstick Neck. The dispatcher mentioned the word ‘kayak,’ so my ears perked up. If it’s a kayak, it must be in the water, so I started back down toward Rumstick,” Mr. Hughes said.
As the assistant harbormaster traveled south he heard a second call from another boater who had stopped following the incident. Then he called the Coast Guard and told them that he was responding. He also contacted the dispatcher and alerted him to the fact that he was on his way.
A rescue plan was quickly devised, and Mr. Hughes, a Warren resident, was told to stop at a private dock near Rumstick Point.
“I tied up there and the four firemen carried this guy to the dock and then onto the boat,” Mr. Hughes said. “He didn’t look so hot.
“Two EMTs got on the boat with me and I took them back to Police Cove. I went back as fast as I could and in the meantime, radioed back to central. They called Warren for mutual aid and Warren dispatched their rescue to the (Police Cove) dock.”
Warren EMTs transported Mr. Marshall to Rhode Island Hospital.
“They said, ‘This guy’s having a massive heart attack,’” Mr. Marshall recalled. “They ended up putting two stints in my heart.”
Mr. Marshall said he spent two days in the intensive care unit at the hospital and another two days in general care. He said he’s on a number of different medications and has been ordered to lots of rest at home.
“I don’t know what it is, but I’m very emotional. I’ve been crying, thinking about the people who helped me. My friend saved my life and those guys from Barrington who carried me across the marsh, they belong in heaven, they’re angels. What they did for me, you can’t put a price tag on that,” he said. “One guy, he held my hand the whole way. He kept saying ‘You’re gonna be all right. You’re gonna be all right.’
“Between Barrington and Warren, they were just unbelievable.”
“If you see kayakers, you give them a wide berth,” he said. “This isn’t a game of chicken. If there’s an error on the water it can result in fatalities.
“If there was a fatality they could get charged with reckless boating-death resulting… Specifically, running a powerboat with a big wake near a kayak is reckless boating.”