STANDISH, Maine — Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce capsized in a kayak Wednesday, plunging him into the still frigid water of Sebago Lake.
Fortunately, someone heard his yells for help and spotted him in the water.
“Once you go over, you’re just scrambling to try to get to shore, hold onto something,” Joyce said.
After capsizing, Joyce held onto his kayak and the floating ball of the mooring that he’d paddled out to put in the lake.
“I could just keep my head above water, use that time to relax, think things out and kick towards shore,” Joyce said.
Tyler Leonard was working on a house when a crew member heard someone yelling.
“I look down the beach and saw a kayak and it was quite a ways out,” Leonard said.
“I didn’t think I yelled that loud, but I guess I did,” Joyce said.
Leonard got a canoe and paddled out toward the kayak.
“I just paddled like crazy,” Leonard said.
Meanwhile, with the lake temperature at 48 degrees, Joyce started feeling the effects of hypothermia.
“I was at a point where I could have held on for a little longer,” Joyce said. “But what I wasn’t realizing is how quickly my body temperature was going down.”
“He was hanging on to his kayak and the buoy and he was breathing heavy,” Leonard said.
“I mean, I was exhausted from holding on,” Joyce said.
“I just told him breathe,” Leonard said. “Just concentrate on your breathing. Just breathe because hypothermia is awful. And I just knew I had to get him in.”
Joyce admits he made one big mistake. He says because the water was calm, he didn’t bring a life jacket.
“I didn’t wear a life jacket. I didn’t bring a life jacket. Normally, I bring a life jacket, or I have one on,” Joyce said. “That wasn’t one of my best decisions.”
EMTs were waiting on shore.
Joyce thanked Leonard for saving his life before being briefly hospitalized for hypothermia.
“He couldn’t squeeze my hand, so I knew he was hurting,” Leonard said. “But he’s tough, you know.”
“I was lucky,” Joyce said. “And it just brings back reality that just because you do something repeatedly, it doesn’t mean, in a New York second, things can’t change.”