LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Diving teams recovered the body of a kayaker in Hot Springs Village on Tuesday, marking the second person to die in Arkansas waters within a week’s span.
Safety experts stressed the need for proper precautions, especially life jackets when going out on the water.
“When I paddle in the winter, I really like to paddle with a buddy,” said Kirsten Barlow, the Watchable Wildlife Coordinator for Arkansas Game & Fish. “Secondly, you have to wear a life jacket.”
Barlow said she avidly enjoys all of Arkansas’ natural entertainment, including the water.
“I paddle a solo canoe, but I also kayak some and have tried out some paddleboarding,” Barlow said. “I like any of it.”
Hot Springs Village Police confirmed Tuesday dive teams had recovered the body of Andrew Maestas, 22, whose kayak capsized in Lake DeSoto on Sunday. Maestas had been on vacation from Tennessee, police said.
This follows the Sunday recovery of paddleboarder Ashley Haynes’ body in the Arkansas River near Maumelle, marking two deaths within a week’s span.
“The whole common theme is you’ve got to wear a life jacket,” said Jim Frank, who owns Ozark Outdoor Supply in Little Rock.
Frank said several years ago, he had a scary experience when he tipped over his canoe in cold temperatures. He wasn’t wearing a life jacket at the time but luckily found a way to save himself.
“I didn’t go out there that day planning to tip my canoe over,” Frank said. “It happened really quick, and I was shocked it happened.”
The incident changed how Frank approaches the water. Even though he has decades of experience as an outdoorsman, he said he treats each trek with equal respect, especially during the winter.
“The water doesn’t warm up in one day, so you’ve just got to take that into account,” Frank said.
Barlow and Frank both stressed the importance of wearing the right clothing. Avoiding cloth is key because that material can get wet and cold when splashed. A “dry bag” packed with fresh clothes is also necessary.
Barlow said she hopes people aren’t steered away from the water because of these incidents. Instead, she hopes people might learn a lesson from them. “If you’re going to go out and paddle, it’s okay to do it in the winter,” Barlow said. “You’ve just got to have extra precautions.”