Naval Search and Rescue Crew Saves Kayaker

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PANAMA CITY BEACH - Crews at Naval Support Activity Panama City are constantly training.

The MH-53 Sea Stallion crew was gearing up for a training mission Thursday morning, but a training exercise for some of the base's Naval Surface Warfare Center sailors turned into a real life emergency Wednesday morning.

It started with a call from the U.S. Coast Guard right next door.

"We came into work not expecting that obviously, but that's exactly what we train for things like that. We adapt and stay flexible to whatever comes up," said Chief Daniel Brantley with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Division.

Using a Seahawk helicopter, they took off to find a missing kayaker, who was supposedly was on an orange kayak, wearing a yellow shirt, and wasn't too far from the coast.

Officials say the middle aged man was found about four miles from Phillips Inlet. They say they had trouble identifying him because he never signaled for help.

When the found him they say he was lying face down on his kayak.

"He was coherent and speaking legibly. I knew he was physically okay and then I asked him what he wanted to do and he said he wanted to go home,"said Petty Officer 1st Class, Nathan Gardner.

On board the helicopter, the man told sailors he hooked a large fish that pulled him farther out to into the gulf. He lost his paddle, then the wind carried him out farther.

"Lucky for us, our training kicked in. It was like we didn't even have to think about it. We just did what we had to do," said Chief Brantley.

The kayaker declined our request for an interview, saying he'd rather put this incident behind him.