“It happened so fast. As soon as I let go of the motor handle and began taking water over the gunnels, I knew I was getting wet,” said Ted Kuhn. “I also knew I had to remain calm if I was going to get out of this situation.”
By Chris Jennings
Fog, a light drizzle, and warmer than normal temperatures in December right after a cold front – duck hunting couldn’t have been a better way for Ted Kuhn, Zionsville, Ind., resident to spend his day off. Ducks were holding tight along the Wabash River and Kuhn had remembered seeing several feeding along the mouth of a creek just north of Terre Haute, Ind. A morning filled with feather-laced optimism terrifyingly changed to a survival situation, one that Kuhn and others have learned from.
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By 10:30 a.m., Kuhn realized the corn-fed mallard drakes he was hoping would pour into the creek mouth were going to be a no-show. He picked up his decoys, situated them in his 13.5-foot layout boat, threw on his life-jacket and began motoring slowly up river toward the Michael H. Kearns public access site in Tecumseh, Ind.
“I was familiar with the area just from hunting it several times this season with no problems,” said Kuhn, a Lt. Col. and an F-16 pilot with the 181st Fighter Wing, Indiana Air National Guard. “I loaded the decoys in the front to counter balance the weight of myself and the motor, and the decoys had shifted to one side. This was causing the boat to lean a little.”
As he reached out to adjust the decoy bags which were causing the slight list, his hand let off the motor handle. The boat slowed in the current with the subtle change in direction and then turned. The layout boat’s low sides began taking in water and the Wabash’s currents were no match for Kuhn’s feeble efforts to regain its balance. The way the boat was taking in water, the entire boat acted like a rudder and it went down fast.