Three friends, two dogs and a giant bright flamingo float were all rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard after being swept away by high winds in Alaskan waters on Saturday.
Hollie Spence told the Washington Post that she was celebrating her 30th birthday with her roommate, brother and their two dogs when they climbed a 10-foot inflatable flamingo raft in Monashka Bay on the island of Kodiak, Alaska.
The sky was clear and the sun was shining, but, she said, it was windy. After an hour of floating, the group was carried from the waters of Monashka Bay to the Gulf of Alaska.
“I panicked right away,” Spence told The Post on Monday. “We had nothing to move around and the wind was strong. My mind has gone to the worst place.
At one point, the flamingo got stuck in a cluster of rocks with sharp barnacles before slowly starting to deflate, according to Spence. As the raft took on the water, a US Coast Guard helicopter rescued them and airlifted them to safety, she said.
“An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from US Coast Guard Kodiak Air Force Base hoisted three people with two dogs stranded on rocks offshore near Kodiak today after their raft crossed Monashka Bay! ” the US Coast Guard said in a Facebook post. “A chopper was the best option to bring these people and their animals back to land safe and sound! “
Colin Dickey, a bystander who watched the incident unfold, told NBC News on Wednesday that the sight was “shocking.”
“When my girlfriend called me out the window, I expected to see a whale, but instead I saw a fairly large floating flamingo,” he said.
Dickey said he often saw kayaks and motorized fishing boats on the waters on a daily basis and assumed the group knew what they were doing.
“It was so strange,” he said. “I was surprised to see someone on the water, and my first thought was that they might meet another boat somewhere since I couldn’t see any paddles.”
Spence told the Post the arduous trip was “terrifying,” adding that she had no plans to return to the water.
“It was an experience that I will never forget in my life, never. Especially since it was my 30th birthday, ”she said.