The extraordinary efforts and quick thinking of a local resident helped save capsized kayakers near Redondo Beach in June.
Ry Keener, of Redondo, was honored at South King Fire and Rescue’s commissioner meeting on Tuesday evening. Keener is also being awarded as the Mirror’s Citizen of the Month for August.
In the late afternoon of June 24, two women in their twenties were kayaking in the Puget Sound near Redondo Beach when their watercraft overturned in the water. Witnesses reported the women were screaming for help, said SKFR Assistant Chief Kevin Crossen at the meeting.
Hearing and seeing the commotion offshore, Keener’s wife, Jennifer, called 911 as Keener slipped on his wetsuit to assist the stranded kayakers.
Without hesitation, Keener jumped into the Sound and swam roughly 200-300 yards to rescue the women, Crossen said.
Nearby paddle boarders that day, Bridget Merlino and Alex Harms, also assisted with the rescue before Keener made contact with the distressed kayakers. South King also recognized Merlino and Harms for their major role in rescue assistance, although Merlino and Harms were not in attendence of the meeting.
The June incident initiated a Zone 3 dive rescue response, said Battalion Chief Ryan Herrera, who was on scene of the kayak rescue. This included several SKFR units and marine teams, along with Renton Regional Fire Authority Dive 12 and Valley Regional Fire Authority Dive 33.
South King dispatched a rescue swimmer upon arrival as the kayakers were still in the water about a quarter mile out from the beach, Herrera told the Mirror.
“The Puget Sound is cold,” Hererra said. “The temperature doesn’t change much throughout the year and it doesn’t take long for hypothermia to set in … I applaud [the citizens’] efforts and their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to help another.”
The paddle boarders played a major role in the rescue, Hererra said. With assistance from Keener, the kayakers were able to get on the paddle board and back to shore safely.
South King’s incoming fire Chief Vic Pennington, along with Crossen, presented Keener with the citizen recognition certificate on Aug. 27.
“He assisted by bringing the kayakers safely to shore and from the frigid water,” Crossen said. “We’d like to commend Ry Keener for his brave decision and quick response to assist others in need …”