PORT HARDY– A local man reacted quickly to help a struggling kayaker earlier this week.
Matthew Kozak, who was working at the Petro-Canada fuel dock near the ferry terminal, was locking up the pumps on Wednesday afternoon when he heard a shout.
“I looked ’round and at first I didn’t see anybody, but when I went back to the pumps I heard it again,” Kozak explained. “Then I saw a guy on the breakwater waving off to the right. I followed where he was pointing and I saw the guy in the water about a quarter-mile out.”
Kozak said there was around a three-foot swell and he could just see a head between the waves. He grabbed his lifejacket and jumped in the dock’s response boat and made for the figure in the water.
The kayaker, Steven Fines, had been pitched into the water by the rough waves and was struggling against the strong current to get back into his kayak, which had taken on water in the spill.
Kozak pulled him into the response boat and the pair were attempting to secure the kayak when the Coast Guard arrived on the scene. The Coast Guard determined Kozak had matters in hand and returned to their station.
When Kozak got the pair back to the dock, a waiting ambulance took Fines to the hospital as a precaution after being in the water but he was released after two hours with no ill effects.
He returned with a gift card to express his gratitude to Kozak.
Fines had left for the Masterman Islands earlier in the day with a friend, but a sudden worsening of the weather caused them to cut short their planned route and make for home. Despite having a fair amount of experience, he was caught by surprise by the swell in the cove and his kayak overturned.
His friend, a novice, was unable to help and so used his cellphone to summon help before spotting Kozak on the dock and hailing him.
Kozak said that once he realized that the figure was in need of assistance he just reacted.
“I probably should have let someone know what was happening,” Kozak said, “but when I saw him out there I just grabbed my lifejacket and jumped in the boat.”
Fines was glad he did.
“There was a definite sense of relief,” he said of the moment he realised Kozak had spotted him, “I knew then that someone was coming.”
Kozak has enjoyed additional plaudits since his act. He said his bosses at Petro-Canada have been in touch to praise his reaction and the RCMP officer who responded told him he did a phenomenal job in responding so quickly.