Every scenario possible ran through Travis Board’s head Thursday night when he lost cell phone contact with his son, Nick Board, 14, and nephew, J.R. Quaempts, 14.
The two boys had set out 10 hours earlier from the Clinton Lake spillway on a spring break canoe adventure down the Wakarusa River.
“We picked a day that was the nicest; the water was good on the Wakarusa,” Travis Board said. “They loaded up their fishing poles, and I talked to them every couple of hours … about 7 o’clock I told them to give me their GPS coordinates and as they pulled out, they dropped their phone in the water.”
From there, a massive five-hour search began. “First we had to get across a waterfall. That’s where I lost my jacket,” Nick said.
By late Thursday evening the boys were cold and tired — and had been soaked head to toe. They agreed their best strategy was to stay put and set up camp.
Shortly after they started a fire, the two spotted flashlights upstream and began flashing a camera toward the lights.
That proved enough of a signal for Wakarusa Township firefighters to see the boys.
“The water was down; it wasn’t up high or running really hard, so it was easy to hear,” said Allen Erber, a volunteer firefighter with Wakarusa Township Fire Department. “It was a lucky night for them and for us.”
The Eudora family spent Friday revisiting the site where the boys were found, near East 1750 Road in rural Douglas County. And Travis and J.R. were reunited with the two firefighters who located them.
“Being a father myself, it’s a big deal to know that your kid is out there alone,” said Charlie Biggerstaff, Wakarusa Township firefighter. “It’s just comforting to know that we laid eyes on them, to know that they’re OK, they’re talking to you, no injuries, that’s just a huge sigh of relief.”
Both Nick and J.R. are Boy Scouts — and they thought they were prepared for their canoe trip. The two packed plenty of food, water, proper clothing, GPS units and cell phones.
Next time, however, there might be a few changes.
“I wish we would have had some waterproof maps and some waterproof clothing,” J.R. said.