HARRISONVILLE, Mo. -- A close call happened this weekend when a metro man’s fishing trip turned into a fight for survival. A rescue unfolded on Truman Lake Friday afternoon that stretched into the overnight hours.
FOX 4’s Melissa Stern spoke with Ken Stearns and his wife Donna, who are calling Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers their heroes.
“The water was just dumping in faster than my boat`s pump could pump it out, and I had a five-gallon bucket, trying to throw the water out,” Ken recalled.
The 49-year-old man told his wife he was going fishing for a few hours Friday afternoon, but that trip turned out a little more adventurous than he had anticipated.
“At some point my feet and my fingers went numb, I couldn`t feel them anymore, there was no way to get out of the wind, there was no way to start a fire,” he said.
Ken and his boat were stuck on a sandbar. As hours passed and the sun set, he yelled for help.
“I got pretty delirious there for a while, when I got so cold I couldn`t see, the sand was blowing in my face. I was pretty scared.”
He and his wife Donna have been married for 26 years, and she was concerned when Ken hadn`t returned home by sunset, and called 911.
“We were looking everywhere while the boat was searching all night long,” she said.
The highway patrol searched for Ken by air from a helicopter, in addition to looking for him on the ground.
“I was so worried. Everything went through my mind,” Donna said.
“I just thought I was a goner at that point. I just wanted to get back to my camper, my wife, and my dogs, my grandkids, it was miserable,” Ken said.
After about 14 hours in the freezing cold, Ken saw the helicopter.
“When they shined that light on me I just wanted to cry. I just wanted to kiss them, but I didn`t think they wanted a 278 pound man kissing on them,” he said.
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“That was just a huge moment of relief. He was frozen solid, his clothes were coated in ice,” Donna described.
Doctors checked Ken out at a hospital and released him on Sunday.
“I`m just glad to have him. I don`t know what I`d do without him, he`s my best friend,” Donna said.
The Stearns say they can't thank the rescue team enough.
“I owe my life... they were there for me that night, and my wife,” Ken said.
“They were heroes, that`s what they are, they are heroes,” Donna added.
Ken doesn`t think he would have survived another hour in the elements. He also says he plans to add flares to his boat, and carry his cell phone with him from now on.