Off-duty New York officer rescues Utah kayaker on Colorado River

'This is how I'm going to die'

By Erin Cox
CNN image

(KSTU) - Colorado River -- Troy Keys has kayaked along the "Moab Daily" stretch of the Colorado River multiple times, but June 6 was the first time that he's flipped.

In that moment, he thought it would be the last breath he'd ever take.

"I started really losing my breath and the panic set in," Keys said. "I couldn't control what was going on and I couldn't swim. I could feel my physical self not being able to fight anymore."

Keys had gone under the water twice. The river roared in his ears, but Keys said the thoughts in his head were louder.

"I remember thinking, 'This is it, this is how I'm going to die,'" he said.

Thinking of his children and his recent 46th birthday, Keys said he couldn't believe his life was going to end like this.

With his body temperature dropping, Keys became exhausted and his body refused to move.

"Things went black. That's the last thing I remember," he said.

The next thing he knew, Keys was slumped over on a raft — he could barely hear and see the people saying he was in shock.

Those were his rescuers.

Officer Bryan Welcher with the New York State Park Police was in Moab on vacation with his friends Joe Carlson and Matt Huette.

They saw Keys capsize upriver from them, and they immediately rowed across the river to intercept him, the police agency wrote in a Facebook post.

The post said Keys was blue and unconscious, and that he'd been in the 44-degree water for 10 to 15 minutes before he was rescued.

"I would be dead if those guys hadn't pulled me out of the river," Keys said.

Not conscious enough to know who his rescuers were, these three men were there for him in his most helpless and vulnerable moment, and he said he'll never forget that.

"I thank him, thank him so much for saving my life," Keys said.

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