NEVADA COUNTY, California (CNN) — A man who was rescued from dangerous river rapids in Northern California is alive.
He says he is extremely grateful for the chopper team that saved him.
25-year-old Kalani Tuiono waves to rescue crews, stranded on a rock in the middle of Turbulent South Yuba River Rapids.
He spoke to CNN reporters by phone recalling the terrifying moments.
He said, “I honestly don’t know how I made it on that rock, but i think if I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now.”
The California Highway Patrol captured the dramatic video of a rescue technician from Truckee Fire descending into the canyon.
In the helicopter, a CHP Officer maneuvers the basket carefully down to Kalani.
“I could feel the wind from the helicopter and it was getting difficult to balance on the rock, it was difficult to breathe.”
Finally, the rescue fireman grabs Kalani into the basket and he’s flown to safety.
“I really will be forever appreciative. My appreciation is through the sky right now.”
CHP Flight Officer, Matt Calcutt, said, “He’s a very lucky individual to have survived.”
Tucked away in the basket, Kalani flies over the rapids that tossed him around.
The current had swept him up during a swim.
“I thought I could swim across what appeared to be a calmer part of the river. The feeling the current had on me was like the start of a roller coaster. I’m 6’4″, and I’ve never felt so small in my life” says Kalani.
A reminder to be careful around the frigid and fast-moving waterways.
Calcutt said, “go where it’s calm and peaceful, like a lake maybe.”
As for Kalani, he just feels lucky and wants to pay that good fortune forward by volunteering for his local search and rescue team.
Kalani said, “My biggest thing is my gratitude to those guys. I could only imagine their families at home when they’re out doing rescues like that.”