Corey Lilly saw the empty kayak on Facebook, and knew exactly where the missing kayaker would be

By Rachel DeSantis
September 23, 2020 01:55 PM
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When Corey Lilly saw on Facebook that an empty kayak was floating aimlessly along the Kanawha River and there were fears for its owner’s safety, he knew exactly what to do — and where to find him.

Keeping in mind his own expertise as a professional kayaker, Lilly rallied two of his friends and launched a successful rescue, hours after local search and rescue teams had ended their efforts.

Sam Davis was kayaking alone on the West Virginia river on Sunday when he lost his boat after briefly swimming out of it, ABC affiliate WOAY reported.

After his empty kayak and truck were found by passerby, search and rescue teams began their hunt around 6 p.m. — but by 10 p.m., they’d called it a night after having found no trace of Davis, according to the outlet.

Luckily for Davis, however, photos of the empty kayak were shared to a public Facebook page for kayakers in the area — and when Lilly spotted it, he knew right away that Davis was likely trapped in a crevice behind a waterfall, a spot that would’ve been easily overlooked by rescue teams.

“Based on the photo, I knew exactly where he was so I rallied Stephen Wright and Paul Griffin to go with me around 10 pm after,” Lilly wrote on Facebook. “I did not make this effort until I heard the local search and rescue ended their efforts.”

When they got to the scene, Lilly and his friends found Davis alive, and wedged on the ledge behind the curtain of the falls.

“At that point we were like, ‘Okay, he’s alive. He’s stable. And we need to make the best strategic action that is going to get this done swiftly and quickly,’” Lilly told WOAY.

Eventually, with the help of additional local kayakers who arrived on the scene to help, the group lowered a rope down to Davis, who clipped it to his harness and was successfully pulled up.

Wright wrote on Facebook that it took about four or five attempts to lift Davis, but once they did, he was greeted with cheers and hugs before being taken to the hospital.

Lilly wrote that Davis was suffering from hypothermia after spending eight hours behind the waterfall, but is expected to recover.

“When you have knowledge and you have the skillset to be able to do something and make a genuine impact on your community, it’s just human nature,” he told WOAY. “Or maybe I should say the West Virginia nature, to stand up and do something about it.”