Midlands kayaker saves two people from wreckage in Lake Murray

White plugs could be seen on the choppy waters of Lake Murray Dam on Saturday, Allen Hutto said. The waves broke over five towers that rise from the lake a few hundred meters from the dam.

Near the towers, the waves and the wind shook a boat with two fishermen on board.

Within minutes, the boat would capsize, with the two fishermen clinging to Hutto’s kayak.

“I’m just glad it’s good news,” Hutto said. “That could have been bad news.”

‘Right place…right time’ barely

Hutto has been kayaking for nearly four decades. He has an “enormous” amount of practice on the water, he said.

On Saturday, all his years of training were put to the test. But Hutto almost failed to get in the water at the right time.

Hutto spoke to The State on Saturday after posting the rescue on social media.

Hutto said he enjoys a rough day on the lake in his kayak. So when a lake wind advisory was issued by meteorologists, he prepared to set sail in the morning.

As he was about to leave, he noticed a nail in his tire. He had to get it plugged in before he could head out to the lake.

This delay proved to be crucial for both fishermen.

“It was tough there,” he said.

Around 11 a.m., paddling through the water between the dam and the iconic cement, brick and graffiti towers rising from the lake, Hutto noticed a center console boat buffeted by the elements.

Wind and rushing water twisted the boat until its side was against the waves. The boat capsized when Hutto was about one hundred feet away.

He saw the two men swinging and squirming in the water. One of them didn’t have a life jacket on and appeared to be struggling, Hutto said.

He “carried” it to the fishermen, he said, sinking his paddles into the water. When he got to the men, he told them to hold on to the bow of his kayak. They put their arms around the front of his kayak and hugged him tightly.

Hutto gestured over another nearby pontoon boat.

Hutto and other boaters helped the two fishermen into the pontoon boat before taking them to a nearby landing stage.

He “wouldn’t have been in the right place at the right time without that nail,” he said.

Kayaker and home building advocate

Hutto is a prominent member of the Midlands community.

He is the CEO of the Building Industry Association of South Carolina, which champions the homebuilding industry in the Midlands.

He has been kayaking for 35 years. Specifically, he has kayaked in open water or sea, meaning he paddles large bodies of water rather than rivers.

Saturday’s experience reminded him of the importance of water safety and wearing life jackets.

South Carolina law requires boaters to have a life jacket available on the boat, but they are not required to wear them.

After landing, the guys he and the other boaters rescued “were cold but fine,” Hutto said.

This story was originally published March 19, 2022 2:04 p.m.

David Travis Bland has won the SC Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for Community Journalism. He joined The State in 2018. He writes about crime, law enforcement and the criminal justice system. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2010.
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