KEARNEY — Cindy Zurn’s leg was caked in mud and her clothes were soaked with water Wednesday afternoon as her 10-year-old grandson described how he flagged down a motorcyclist to get help for his grandmother, who had overturned her kayak in Turkey Creek near The Archway.
"It was on my bucket list to paddle on this canal," said Zurn, who enjoys kayaking with her husband, Don. The couple from Alliance are camping at Fort Kearny State Recreation Area along with their grandsons Gavin and Coy List of Lincoln.
Gavin is 10 and Coy is 4, and the two boys were paddling with their grandmother on the Turkey Creek water trail, that runs from the put-in at Yanney Heritage Park in southwest Kearney and under the city’s main street, Second Avenue, near the Cinemna 8 movie theater.
Zurn and her grandsons had paddled beyond the landing near the theater and entered an undeveloped area of the water trail when Coy jumped off the kayak he was sharing with his brother and Gavin and his grandmother continued down the stream.
Zurn said her paddle got tangled in a low-hanging tree limb. She was knocked over, and her 10-year-old grandson continued downstream on his kayak until he could get off and find help.
He said he could hear traffic on nearby Interstate 80, so he figured help was close. At the top of the canal he spotted a motorcyclist who had just stopped on a bridge.
"I yelled, ‘Biker on the bridge, do you have a phone?’" said Gavin.
The motorcyclist helped call 911.
After the dispatcher said on police radio that a woman had fallen off her kayak near The Archway and her whereabouts were unknown, 20-30 first responders scrambled to the area. They included the Kearney Dive Team and officers of the State Patrol, Buffalo County Sheriff’s office, Kearney Police Department and Good Samaritan ambulance.
Zurn said she had two major challenges after she was knocked off her kayak. The first was freeing her leg from quicksand and the second was baling water from the swamped kayak.
"I really had a hard time standing the kayak up on its end so the water would drain," she said, "and then I had to pull my leg from the quicksand."
After the first responders had gone and the kayaks were loaded into a pickup, Cindy’s husband, Don Zurn, congratulated Gavin for his quick action to help his grandmother.
"When you’re parents hear what you did they’re going to be very proud," Zurn said. "We’ll come back on Thursday to kayak some more, but first let’s go back to the campgrounds for some quiet fishing."
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