Nick Merisko and his longtime friend, Zach Mckiddy, decided to take their kayaks out on the Kankakee River last Saturday.
Merisko, of Chicago Heights, had bought his kayak on Thursday. Mckiddy lives in East Hazel Crest.
The buddies, who are both 27, spent Friday on the river and decided to go back Saturday after Merisko didn’t have to work. Merisko said they got to the river at 9:30 a.m.
Some eight hours later, Merisko and Mckiddy, along with another man, helped rescue James Hubona, who was clinging to a boat that had flipped one-quarter mile west of the Illinois-Indiana state line.
Hubona’s friend, Mike Stefano, and his dog, Buster, also were enjoying a ride on the river when the boat slammed into a logjam. Stefano and Buster are presumed drowned.
In a telephone interview with the Daily Journal on Monday, Merisko said, “We usually stay on the back waters, but we enjoyed where we were at on Friday.”
Merisko said they were packing up to leave. They were talking to a guy fishing nearby.
“We heard someone yelling nearby. It was hard to understand,” Merisko said. “A car came flying by. We went to the river, and we saw a man clinging to a boat.”
Merisko said they jumped into action, grabbing his kayak and a life vest, which they got out to Hubona. Then it was a matter of getting to him.
Attempts to use a cord and rope were unsuccessful.
Merisko said he made his way slowly along the logjam. After he got to Hubona, Merisko guided the kayak to the island.
“I wanted to keep him calm,” Merisko said. “He hung on to the kayak.”
It was about this time that rescue personnel started arriving.
Merisko left Hubona on the island and went to check on Mckiddy, who fell off the 25-foot wide logjam, but he made it back to shore.
Merisko said he didn’t feel the magnitude of what occurred until he was sitting on the shore with Hubona.
“There was fear in the man’s eyes,” Merisko said. “He said his friend and dog were gone.
“My stomach dropped. I realized the situation.”