It was a spontaneous adventure that nearly turned tragic for one Tompkins County family after their rental canoe sank in turbulent water. Tamara Lindstrom tells us how a father and three young children survived the frightening ordeal.
TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. -- For Brian Winters and his fiancé Sarah Basil, Saturday seemed like a perfect summer day to spend on the lake.
"We wanted to do something spontaneous, so we took them to the park here and had a nice time. And that's when we saw the canoe rental place and got the idea to go out onto the lake," Winters said.
"I watched them leave in the canoe and they were giggling and laughing and having a good time. About half an hour into the trip, I just got this gut feeling something was wrong," Basil said.
Winters and their three children, two seven-year-olds and a ten-year-old, left Myers Park in Lansing that afternoon, only to become quickly swept away in rough waters.
Winters said, "I was struggling to try and get the boat turned around. But every time I angled back toward the shore, that's when the waves would really hit over the sides of the boat."
Tossed in relentless swells, the little red canoe began to take on water.
"And I told the kids if we go down, we need to stay together, we all need to stay calm. And sure enough, the boat did go down," Winters said
Winters and all three of the kids know how to swim and they were all wearing life vests. But he says the waves were just too strong and they struggled to keep their heads above water.
"We were floating there in the water. Between the swells, we were screaming our little heads off, trying to get anyone to hear us," Winters said.
The four castaways linked arms and fought in vain to move toward shore. But after 15 minutes, their ordeal had come to an end.
Winters said, "Someone pulled up beside us and said 'hey, we're here, we can help you.' And at that point, we all struggled toward the boat and two angelic faces appeared and they helped me and the kids onto the boat."
The chilled and exhausted group was taken back to shore.
"The kids got off the boat and were very shaken, but I could tell they remained brave. And I didn't want to let them go," Basil said.
Winters is convinced the passing boaters saved their lives.
"If someone hadn't happened by us, I don't think we would have been rescued and it would have been a very different story," Winters said.
Next time, he says, he'll know the telltale signs of changing weather before he gets on the water.
The couple says they haven't yet had a chance to properly thank their rescuers, but plan to in the near future. They also remind everyone headed out on the water to wear life jackets and keep calm if there's danger.