By Cyndi Sellers
A light north wind and flat sea can be deceptive, as people at Rutherford Beach learned over the weekend. Four people were rescued in two separate events when they were pushed away from shore and found themselves unable to return.
On Friday, May 29, at 2 p.m., the Cameron Sheriff’s Office received a call about a woman on a flotation device drifting out to sea south of the Rutherford Beach pavilion. The US Coast Guard and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries were contacted, since they are in charge of offshore water rescues, and the Sheriff’s Office marine unit was dispatched.
Before any of these could arrive, two Crowley men in a loaned kayak paddled out and towed her in. She had drifted out about a mile. By 3:06 p.m. everyone was reported safely back on land.
On Sunday, May 31, at 10:15 a.m. the Sheriff’s Office received another call. Two kayaks were reported to be taking on water west of the pavilion near the satellite rig. Again, both the USCG and LDWF were called. The three men, experienced kayak fishermen, were pushed offshore by unexpected winds and a strong rip tide. One, Hunter Thibodeaux, reported overturning his kayak, losing his anchor, and cutting his leg, which attracted sharks.
Thibodeaux reported paddling against the current and wind for two hours and gaining only about 100 yards in that time. He said he had begun to fear for his life. The men had drifted three miles west of Rutherford Beach and five miles offshore when a civilian on a jet ski found them and towed them in. The rescuer, from Houston, Texas, declined to give his name.
Beachgoers are cautioned about using flotation devices with an offshore wind. The Cameron Parish coast has an east-west current that can also push floaters, especially children, a long distance. Boaters should always use life preservers