GRAND FORKS — Lucky to be alive after a terrifying experience paddling the flooded Red River, a Grand Forks man hopes others might rethink taking boats out in treacherous waters.
Floodwater in Grand Forks' Lincoln Drive Park appeared calm and it seemed to offer an easy place to launch a boat.
That's where 19-year-old Trevor Binstock launched his kayak under the moonlight Monday night, April 15. The lifelong Grand Forks resident wanted to enjoy the park in a way he never had.
"All the Frisbee golf pins and the dog park — they are 30 feet under water and you are 30 feet on top of it in the trees," Binstock explained.
The University of North Dakota aviation student said it was the perfect way to relieve stress, calling the experience "dreamlike."
But within an hour and a half into the moonlit paddle, things took a scary turn when he decided to check out an abandoned building on the east side of the river.
That's when Binstock said he realized the flood had a lot more power than he originally thought. His kayak capsized and floated away with his cellphone. The avid swimmer looked for a tree branch in the 40-foot water, but the river flow made swimming tough.
"The current was pushing me a lot faster than I can swim, so I had to swim with that and slowly go to the side," he said.
After a terrifying minute in 40-degree water, he was finally able to grab a branch and had a moment to think about his next move.
His only option to survive was to yell for help.
After about 20 minutes, a woman taking out her trash heard his cries. And just in time — Binstock was losing energy.
Rescue crews were sent out, but they had a hard time spotting him. Binstock could see the crews, but they could not see him in the trees 700 feet away.
Grand Forks County Sheriff Sgt. Thomas Inocencio said some of the cries sounded like they were coming from the nearby dog park.
They were way off still, and officers had to shut down their airboat's engine periodically to listen for Binstock.
After about 10 minutes of searching in the dark, the rescue team finally found him. But it wasn't over yet.
"With the branches sticking out . . . we had to be cautious getting in to him so we could get out," Inocencio said.
Only after being rescued did Binstock realize it is illegal to boat on the Red River. Police did not charge Binstock, which could have resulted in a $100 fine or even criminal charges.
He also learned he should have told people where he was going so they could have reported him missing. One good decision he made was wearing a lifejacket, Binstock said.
Binstock hopes to one day meet the woman who heard his cries for help.