Wakulla County Sheriff's Office Press Release
A Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office road patrol shift lieutenant and two deputies took part in a rescue of two juveniles who were kayaking in the Ochlockonee River but had capsized due to the wind and bad weather Friday, July 5 at 6:20 p.m., according to Sheriff Charlie Creel.
Lt. Mike Kemp arrived at Walker Bridge and determined that two teenagers, a 17-year-old male and a 14-year-old female, both from Tallahassee, were capsized under the bridge and struggling in the rough waters.
The teenagers were clinging to the kayak when their father, Brent Edward Zapata, 44, of Tallahassee jumped off the bridge in an attempt to assist them. All three struggled to swim in the choppy waters.
Deputy Sean Wheeler arrived on scene and Deputy Billy Metcalf was assigned to retrieve the WCSO search and rescue boat. Lt. Kemp reported having difficulty observing the three Tallahassee residents in the water due to the high winds and heavy rain.
Lt. Kemp did not feel he could wait on the WCSO vessel to arrive on scene and contacted a friend, Joel Wier, at the nearby George’s Lighthouse condominiums. Wier gladly assisted WCSO with the rescue operation and traveled out to the bridge with Lt. Kemp.
Deputy Wheeler remained on top of the bridge maintaining visual contact with the struggling individuals in the water below. The three victims were assisted into Mr. Wier’s boat and brought back to land without incident.
A Florida Highway Patrol Trooper observed Deputy Wheeler driving quickly to the scene and attempted to assist the WCSO but lost control of his vehicle due to the poor weather conditions and hydroplaned into a ditch. The trooper was uninjured.
“Each day our road patrol deputies risk their own lives to protect the safety of others,” said Sheriff Creel. “Lt. Kemp and Deputy Wheeler did an outstanding job in making sure our Tallahassee visitors got out of the water safely so they can return to visit another day.”