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Kayaker recounts terrifying rescue after capsizing during storm on Great Salt Lake

Posted at 9:58 PM, Sep 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-21 20:48:41-04

DAVIS COUNTY, Utah -- A group of kayakers is lucky to be alive after a storm left them wading in cold water and waves on the Great Salt Lake for nearly eight hours.

“You see this?” one Utah National Guard helicopter pilot could be heard saying to the other in a video captured as they were flying over the Great Salt Lake Thursday night.

“Oh yeah, what is that? What is that?” the other responded, as the footage continues — a small circle can be seen rolling over the waves.

“Looks like a dude in a tube!” the conversation continued.

That ‘dude in a tube’ is 20-year-old Kaysville resident, Weston Barnett.

“I was convinced I was going to die the entire time,” Weston said, looking back on the long, cold night he spent trying to stay alive and afloat during a storm on the Great Salt Lake.

The pilots spotted Weston nearly eight hours after his kayak went down.

“I capsized and I was like, ‘Well, I’m a dead man,’” Weston said.

Weston and two of his friends arrived on Antelope Island on Wednesday. They had mapped out a course to visit a few islands before returning to where they started.

By Thursday afternoon, they had already kayaked 30 miles, and they were ready to keep going.

“Alright boys, want to see the setup? That’s my tube I need to tie on, this is Ryan’s [tube],” Weston said as he showed their rigs in a video that he recorded of himself for social media.

“This is mine since I’m tactical, you guys know I don’t mess around! I’ve got my two jugs in here, I made a little rope cage for my other three [jugs],” the video continued as he pointed the camera around to the supplies. “It should be a good day!”

They were missing one crucial thing, life-jackets.

Despite all the supplies, they were nowhere near prepared for what lied ahead. The group decided to turn around and head back for shore on Antelope Island, then the weather got worse.

“The waves kept getting bigger and bigger and I was like, ‘Ohhh, this is not going to be a good time,’” Weston said.

Around 3 p.m. the strong winds and waves tore Weston and his friends apart.

“I didn’t know waves in a lake could get this big, honestly,” Weston said.

Each one was left to fend for themselves. The Utah Department of Public Safety said by 10:15 p.m., 20 mph winds had created seven-foot waves, and the temperature of the lake was dropping.

Weston said one of his friends had a ‘good’ kayak and was able to power through the waves. That friend made it to shore shortly after the storm started, and around 7 p.m. called for help, not knowing where his two friends were or if they were okay.

Weston was left with nothing but his tube.

“My water went down with my kayak, my pack was gone,” Weston said. “You go down and you’re like, ‘Oh boy, I’m about to die.”

Eight cold hours later, he made it to Antelope Island on his tube.

“I just could see lights going back and forth on the shore,” Weston said.

Around 1 a.m., the nightmare came to an end -- the helicopters picked him up from there and dropped him off with search and rescue and medical personnel.

“Apparently they heard me up in the helicopter, I was like, ‘I must be on some next level yee yee’s up in here!’” Weston laughed.

Weston said his other friend was found shortly thereafter, floating, with just his face sticking out of the water. He had lost his kayak, supplies and his tube to the wind.

Now, with spirits high and his good luck charm intact, “chicks dig the mullet… it’s actually not a fact, but it’s good luck,” Weston grinned – he said he won’t shy away from the next adventure, but next time he’ll make sure to check the weather first.

“I mean if I got invited to one next week, that wasn’t on the Salt Lake, I’d be like, ‘Alright, let’s tear it up!'” he laughed.

Both men were rescued by 2 a.m. Friday. Weston and his other friend, who spent hours wading in the water, were both taken to the emergency room and treated for hypothermia and dehydration.