June 16, 2021

On June 5, 2021, representatives from Three Rivers Land Trust (TRLT), River Daisy Outdoor Company, LLC, Stanly County Sheriff Department, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), and TRLT paddle participant Robert “Bob” Hanley returned to Falls Reservoir with kayaker Russ Kraus to celebrate his return to the water. This is the first time Kraus has kayaked since he suffered a medical emergency while paddling on March 13, 2021 during a TRLT kayaking event.

On March 13th, over 40 paddlers gathered at Falls Reservoir to participate in TRLT’s inaugural Paddle Club event. After a detailed safety briefing from Travis Morehead, TRLT Executive Director and Officer NCWRC Officer David Ritzheimer, NCWRC Wildlife Officer, participants began the 2-mile paddle to view the historic Narrows Dam and then return to the launch site.

On the trip back, participant Bob Hanley heard cries for help from the shore. Both he and Travis Morehead, TRLT Executive Director began to paddle towards the bystanders on shore who were signaling for their assistance. As they got closer, they realized a kayak was overturned and the paddler was not in view. Bob Hanley jumped in the water and began to upright the kayak and bring the kayaker, identified as Russ Kraus, to the surface. “As I pulled him up [Kraus] and headed back towards my kayak, I turned and there was the John Boat” recalled Hanley. “Just to be a part of this rescue effort was truly, truly amazing.”

NCWRC Officer David Ritzheimer and Stanly County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Almond were attending the kayaking event and also heard the distress calls. They immediately headed to the scene and were able to pull Kraus onto the patrol boat. Ritzheimer recounts the moment they reached Kraus. “We were able to reach the participant and pull him onto the deck of the boat. Unfortunately, Mr. Kraus did not have a pulse and he was not breathing. We immediately began CPR, radioed for emergency responders, and headed back to the launch. Once we returned he began breathing, had a strong pulse, and around a minute and a half later the ambulance arrived.”

“Mr. Kraus suffered a medical emergency as he was paddling.  That emergency is believed to have been caused by a previous injury, which caused Russ to lose consciousness and slip into the water.  The rescue efforts of Bob Hanley, Officer Ritzheimer, and Deputy Almond are what made this story have a positive outcome” states Travis Morehead, Executive Director of Three Rivers Land Trust.

During the reunion celebration, Kraus and other participants returned to the water to once again kayak Falls Reservoir. As a lifelong kayaker, Kraus will continue to enjoy the region’s waters safely.

If you are looking for a way to connect to the outdoors, consider joining one of Three Rivers Land Trust’s interest groups. Whether you like to paddle, hike, shoot archery, or enjoy birding, TRLT has you covered! For more information about TRLT interest groups, go to https://threeriverslandtrust.org/interest-groups or https://www.facebook.com/3riverslandtrustto learn more.

To become a member and support TRLT in their conservation mission, please contact Michael Fulk, Associate Director, at 704-647-0302 or michael@threeriverslandtrust.org.