LODI — An empty kayak found after a sudden thunderstorm June 27 led first responders to fear the worst and call in sonar teams to search beneath Crystal Lake for the craft’s occupant.
Lodi Fire Chief Bobby Annen said crews were called for a report of two kayaks that had overturned on the lake in northwestern Dane County during the storm.
After a two-hour search, the paddlers from both kayaks returned to the scene and notified those searching for them that they were OK.
“When we first got out there we weren’t able to locate anything right away,” Annen said. “I called for Prairie du Sac (Fire Department) right away because we don’t have a boat right now.”
Firefighters from Prairie du Sac located one of the kayaks with their boat.
“When they found it, there were things in there that would make us believe it was occupied,” Annen said. “There was a shoe in there, candy, there were some alcoholic beverages as well. At that point we were like, ‘Oh boy, this must have been occupied.’”
A life vest was found floating in the water near the boat with a baseball cap. “At that point we had to assume we had somebody down,” Annen said.
Search teams from the Prairie du Sac Fire Department, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Dane County Sheriff’s Department used sonar to search beneath the water surface for anyone who may have been caught underwater.
After about two hours of searching, the two individuals being searched for showed up at the scene of the search and identified themselves.
“They said they were both out there kayaking,” Annen said. “(One) kayak tipped and he swam ashore, the other kayaker was able to keep it up and get it to shore, (they) loaded that kayak and left.”
Annen estimated one of the men to be in his 30s and the other in his 50s.
“Given the clues, I really thought somebody was in the lake,” Annen said. “It’s a great outcome. I’m glad he’s OK… that’s what we’re here for, we’re just glad (he’s) safe.”
The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Dane and Columbia counties after 3 p.m. for a storm capable of producing 60 mph wind gusts.
Lodi Fire Department, Prairie du Sac Fire Department, Dane County Sheriff’s Department and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources all responded to the call. Several citizens also assisted with the search.