About 2 p.m. on July 4, Heidi Wood, a new resident of the area, was hiking on the Salishan Spit Trail where Siletz Bay enters the ocean. Wood noticed a kayaker too far out from shore. As the kayaker struggled about 100 yards off shore, Wood and her partner Steven Alkana followed him as strong currents quickly carried the kayaker into trouble south about a mile. They noticed he had two small oars instead of one large one.
He seemed to sink, but then stay afloat. They later learned the plug had come out of his hard plastic kayak making him half submerged and hard to spot, also making the beach patrol unable to see him. A basic orange life vest helped him in his struggle to stay afloat covered in icy waters.
As he drifted within 50 yards of the shore, Wood, a former lifeguard, shouted repeated instructions to the drowning man to free himself. She said to roll on to his back and keep kicking to get closer to shore. Eventually, exhausted, he made it to shallower water, still caught in a severe rip tide. He was a bit delirious and borderline hypothermic, when Wood waded in and dragged him to safety.
The kayaker told Wood that he was giving up until he heard her voice. His life vest and Wood’s relentless pursuit to help someone she didn’t know to make sure he was OK, saved this man’s life. After he was pulled to safety, the beach surf patrol of three on waterskis appeared and assisted him back to his companions.