GALVESTON — Twin brothers from Santa Fe said Monday they owe their lives to a brave fisherman who rescued them from currents and swells that twice capsized their kayak in the San Luis Pass.
Kevin Patterson and his identical twin, Keith, 24, told The Daily News they thought they were goners until the angler they know only as Richard used his flat-bottom boat to pluck them from the swells threatening to carry them out to sea.
The brothers launched Saturday morning from the Brazoria County side of the pass to go fishing in a two-man kayak. The pass is an area known for its swift currents.
Four people have drowned there this year. Since 2001, 11 people are believed to have drowned while swimming off the pass, the largest concentration of drowning deaths off Galveston.
The Pattersons were wearing life jackets when they launched about 10 a.m. with a cousin who was in a single-man kayak and turned back as the swells grew. The brothers, however, weren’t so lucky as they flipped near the middle of the San Luis Pass bridge.
“It’s something that will be embedded in my memory for the rest of my life,” Keith Patterson said.
Kevin Patterson said they’d fished the pass before, and that the tide wasn’t that bad at first, but the current must have been much stronger with Hurricane Ingrid churning the Gulf along the coast of Mexico.
Capsized by swells
“In a matter of 20 or 30 minutes, currents and swells picked up and got so bad it started capsizing us,” Kevin Patterson said. “The current was like a freight train. There was nothing you could do to stop it.”
A large swell capsized the brothers as they tried to return to shore. Keith Patterson was wearing a backpack when he entered the water. He grabbed hold of the overturned kayak and used a knife to free his brother’s legs, which had become tangled with the kayak’s anchor rope.
Kevin Patterson flipped the kayak upright and climbed inside. The weight of his brother’s backpack kept him from pulling him aboard, so he clung to the back of the kayak. They lost all of their gear except for one paddle.
“All I could do is paddle, paddle, paddle, but we were going nowhere,” Kevin Patterson said. “We were in the Gulf side, about to get sucked out. Another swell hit us, capsizing us again. By that time, I was so tired that I was ready to give up. We thought we were both going to die.”
Screaming for help
The brothers were yelling and screaming for help, but only Richard was brave enough to respond in his roughly 20-foot boat, the Pattersons said. When Richard reached the brothers, he grabbed Kevin Patterson and threw him aboard his boat.
“I was so tired, I could barely climb over the edge,” Kevin Patterson said.
It took both men to pull Keith Patterson aboard the boat because the military-style backpack was stuck to him.
Richard was screaming, cursing the brothers, calling them stupid sons of ------- because he was scared for his life, too, Kevin Patterson said.
Richard towed the orange, Pelican kayak back to shore, and the brothers were so thankful that they gave Richard the kayak.
No one reported the incident to the Galveston Island Beach Patrol, Chief Peter Davis said.
Kathy Hampton said she wanted to thank Richard for saving her sons, having already lost one son to a car accident.
“He didn’t realize it, but he saved three lives that day,” Hampton said. “I couldn’t have survived the loss of two more sons.”