‘I’m A Dead Man’ – Kayaker Rescued After 8 Hours On Great Salt Lake Shares Story

Sep 20, 2019, 11:01 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – One man who was rescued after spending hours in frigid weather on the Great Salt Lake after his kayak capsized said he wasn’t sure he and his three friends were going to survive.

From the start, things seemed calm and cool. But the three friends’ high hopes for a pleasant kayaking adventure on the Great Salt Lake were abruptly dashed to pieces Thursday night.

“I didn’t know waves in a lake could get this big honestly,” said Weston Barnett, who had already clocked more than 20 miles on his kayak trip with two friends when the winds and waves suddenly picked up.

“I capsized and I was like, welp, I’m a dead man,” he said.

Fortunately for Barnett, he had thrown his deflated tube around himself to keep warm not long before he was thrown out of his kayak.

But when the waves hit, he suddenly found himself alone with the sun going down on an unfamiliar lake, as he frantically worked to inflate his tube to stay above water.

“It would be easier to die,” Barnett remembered thinking. “I told myself I’m like, ‘I’m not drowning. I don’t care what I have to do, I’m not drowning.’”

But the idea of drowning was quickly replaced with the fear of hypothermia, as the waves and wind crashed on top of him. He tried different positions, including kneeling in a huddle position over his tube in an effort to keep warm as temperatures dipped into the 40s Thursday night.

“I was shivering the entire time,” Barnett said. “I was thinking if I’m going to die, I just want to die now because my whole body was shaking and my teeth were chattering.”

Little did Barnett know, one of his friends was in a much worse position, with no kayak or tube to help him stay afloat.

However, their third friend had safely made it to Antelope Island and called for help.

Utah National Guard crews responded, flying over the lake in search of the two missing kayakers, while Barnett did the only thing he could think of at the time.

“I was out there just yee yeeing, you know. Just yelling it as loud as I could. Apparently they heard me in the helicopter. I was like, ‘I must be on some next level yee yees up in here,” he later said, jokingly.

Meanwhile, a Utah National Guard helicopter spotted something in the water. In the video released online, one of the crew members asked, “What’s that?” Another responded, “Looks like a dude in a tube.”

Utah National Guard Video Of Rescue On Great Salt Lake

WOW! The Utah National Guard released this amazing video of the rescue of the missing kayakers last night on the Great Salt Lake. We'll have an update on the story at noon on KSL TV as well!

Posted by KSL 5 TV on Friday, September 20, 2019

The “dude in a tube” was Barnett. Not long after they spotted him, Barnett reached the shore of Antelope Island and was greeted by a search and rescue team.

It was only then he learned one of his friends was still missing and the crew informed him that it was 1 a.m.

“Are you kidding me?” Barnett remembered saying in disbelief. “I’ve been out here for eight hours already?”

Rescue crews ultimately found his friend, with only his face above water.

“They were worried about him for a while cause I guess he was going in-and-out of consciousness,” Barnett said. “But he pulled through.”

Barnett said his own body temperature dropped to 93 degrees. He spent the night at a local hospital and then went home, where he spent the majority of the day sleeping.

“That was a crazy adventure,” Barnett said as he reflected on the lessons he learned. “Just be prepared and ready because you never know what’s going to happen. Mother Nature – don’t underestimate it at all.”

Barnett’s family attributed his survival to the countless prayers offered on his behalf. And Barnett remembers thinking of his family.

“That’s what else was keeping me going,” he said.

Barnett’s mother, Kathie, said, “it was the longest night of my life. It was frightening. He means everything to us and our family.”

She couldn’t help but think of the moment she first saw him after he was rescued.

“I can’t tell you the sense of relief it was when I saw him walk off the helicopter and get onto the ambulance because I knew he would be okay,” she said.

In fact, Barnett was already looking forward to his next adventure on the water.

“My mom says, ‘yeah you gotta wait,’” he said. “But, I mean, if I got invited to one next week that wasn’t on the (Great) Salt Lake I would be like, ‘alright, let’s tear it up.’”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

FILE: A Salt Lake City police officer handling a revolver that's being turned in....
Eliza Pace

30 guns turned in at SLC police’s gun buy-back event

Salt Lake City Police Department's gun buy-back event resulted in 30 guns being turned in on Saturday.
13 hours ago
Josh Ellis

2 killed, 1 injured in multi-vehicle crash; NB I-15 closed in Box Elder County

Two people are dead and another was critically injured in a crash involving several vehicles on northbound Interstate 15.
13 hours ago
Gwyneth Paltrow carries two beverages as she walks past Terry Sanderson, the man suing her, after t...
Sam Metz

Man suing Gwyneth Paltrow to testify in Utah ski crash trial

The man suing Gwyneth Paltrow over a 2016 collision at an upscale Utah ski resort is expected to take the stand.
13 hours ago
(Derek Petersen/KSL TV)...
Josh Ellis

Davis School District goes virtual, other schools delay start times as snowstorm slams northern Utah

The Weber and Ogden school districts announced a two-hour delay to start times Monday as yet another round of snow impacted morning commutes across northern Utah.
13 hours ago
Jesus the Christ: The Mesa Easter Pageant...
Candice Madsen

Behind the scenes of the world’s largest annual Easter pageant

Spectacular pageantry, Biblical verse, music, dance, and a cast of hundreds help tell the greatest story ever told on the grounds of the Mesa Arizona Temple.
2 days ago
Crews cleaning off ice on an airplane. (KSLTV/Mark Less)...
Ayanna Likens

SLC airport suggests arriving early ahead of spring break travel

Salt Lake City International Airport is expecting high volumes of travel this week with more than 29,000 passengers to go through the airport.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Stack of old laptops with dark background...
PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
‘I’m A Dead Man’ – Kayaker Rescued After 8 Hours On Great Salt Lake Shares Story