SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Two lost kayakers had to be rescued along the Econlockhatchee River Monday after an alligator nearly flipped their boat, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said.
Video released by the Sheriff’s Office showed rescue crews using a helicopter to locate the kayakers. Officials said one of the boaters had a full charge on their cellphone and was able to call 911 for help.
Both kayakers were rescued and brought to safety without injury, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
“We were kayaking and a gator almost flipped us over. The tail went on our kayak. We flipped out,” Allison Haviland told a 911 dispatcher Monday evening.
She was with a teen, separated from her group during an excursion along the Econlockhatchee River at Little Big Econ Forest. She was kayaking with another mom, two elementary school-aged boys and two teen boys. They were on three kayaks: two solid kayaks and one inflatable kayak. The inflatable kayak hit something in the water and started deflating. That’s when the two younger boys and a teen went ahead with one mom, leaving Haviland behind with the other teen.
They’re kayaking excursion went longer than expected, into the night. That’s when they spotted an alligator going for a fish.
“We saw a fish jump up and that’s when we saw a gator. It rolled right next to us, hitting us and his tail brushed up aside the kayak just about tipping us over. By that point, we had enough," said Haviland.
They decided to get the kayak out of the water and hike along the trail near Snow Hill Road.
“It got really dark really fast and we couldn’t tell which of the two paths were the trails," said Haviland.
That’s when she decided to call for help. Seminole County’s ALERT Helicopter helped guide ground rescue crews to the mom and teen.
“Once you’re in the dense woods at night, what would be clear trails during the day are much more obscured and it could be unsettling,” said Seminole County Sheriff’s Office PIO, Bob Kealing.
Kealing said it’s important to have a cell phone with you during any excursion in case of an emergency. In Haviland’s case, she was able to use her phone as a flashlight, navigate with a compass and use the cell service to call for help.
The Econlockhatchee River runs through Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties and is a nearly 55 mile-long blackwater tributary of the St. Johns River.
Haviland and the teen were rescued and reunited with their group. No injuries were reported, according to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.