Tearful NC man thought girlfriend wouldn’t survive being trapped after flipping kayack

PITTSBORO, N.C.  — It’s a birthday celebration a couple will never forget.

The couple was stranded in the Haw River for nearly 6 hours on Sunday might after one of their kayaks flipped over.

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Patrick Pugh says it was a terrifying end to his girlfriend’s birthday celebration.

Less than 30 minutes after they got into the water of the Haw River, they were on the phone with a 911 operator, desperately asking for help.

“I’m stuck,” said Patrick on the emergency call. “I’m on the tree. I can’t get to land. I lost my paddle and my girlfriend is sitting on a rock in the middle of the water.”

Patrick made that frantic 911 call Sunday afternoon.

He and his girlfriend, Gina Wright, were stranded after her kayak flipped over, and he tried to save her.

Wright was clinging to the rock as white water swirled around her, according to video that Pugh captured during the frightening ordeal.

“As soon as I saw her tip, I pulled over to the side because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go back up the stream,” he said.

Patrick felt like there was nothing he could do.

Finally, after several long hours, first responders arrived on the scene.

“The one man who helped my girlfriend, just sat with her for hours, rubbing her, and keeping her warm on that rock, and making sure nothing was going to happen to her,” he said. “And I didn’t think I was going to be able to come home.”

By 11 o’clock at night, the two had been rescued from the water by helicopter.

On Monday, Patrick is giving thanks.

“I’m so glad to be at home and to be alive,” he said. “I’m so glad that Gina is still here. I really thought she wasn’t going to make it.”

They two are doing OK.

Pugh says he is going back out on the Haw River to go kayaking again, but Wright told him she won’t be joining him.

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