Father Recovers inReach From Sinking Boat to Help Save Daughter

11 Aug, 2023

Shane Horton and his family were 45 miles from the nearest town in rural Alaska when their airboat collided with a log, sending them crashing into the shore. He shared with Garmin how they saved their daughter, who sustained serious injuries in the crash, that day.

My wife, grown daughter and I were making a trip upriver to our camp. My daughter was driving my airboat to get some practice because she and her husband had just bought one of their own.

She was driving well, the weather was great, and we were all enjoying the trip.

Eventually, though, she got a little too close to the riverbank. Not being super comfortable using a rudder stick instead of a steering wheel, she accidentally steered the wrong way.

When the boat didn’t respond as anticipated, she tried to correct it but ended up steering the boat into the side of a long log laying just under the water surface. The boat slid along the log and crashed hard into the shore where there was a large cottonwood tree lying horizontally about 4’ above the water.

My wife and the dogs were seated low, so they weren’t hit by the tree. I dove to the deck and just cleared it. It was my daughter, who was in the high seat, who took the full impact of the airboat hitting the tree.

My wife got out, the dogs got out, but our daughter was pinned. When the boat began to sink, I was able to get the engine shut down and get her out of the seat and onto the front deck. Then, with a lot of struggling through the mud, we got her up the 8’ bank and onto dry ground. We assessed her injuries and performed what first aid we could.

Then we remembered the inReach® satellite communication device¹ that we have carried for years, so I went back into the boat and felt around under the water until I found it. The darn thing still powered up and still worked!

We were 30 miles of paved road, 10 miles of dirt road and 5 miles of river from the nearest town, so I hit the SOS button and also sent out distress messages to friends and family.

After messaging about the incident with Garmin Response℠ staff, we got a direct response from the Alaska troopers that they were on the way. We were able to further communicate that we needed two boats and a stretcher to get her out.

Within two hours of the accident, we had an ambulance at the boat launch and two boats with people and gear to help.

My daughter had a shattered kneecap, numerous broken ribs, a ruptured lung, and her pelvis was broken in two places.

We have carried the inReach device for years and have used it to communicate, and I have used the tracking function to let people know where I am when I fly or snowmobile. This is the first time we have needed it in an emergency, and it did its job! The Garmin Response staff was exemplary, keeping in touch and passing along information as soon as it became available.

My daughter is at home now and recovering. Without the inReach, she would have had to lie on the wet riverbank for many hours while I tried to walk and swim my way to get help.

We will keep the inReach device with us whenever we are outdoors, and I very highly recommend it to everyone else.

¹Active satellite subscription required. Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the use of satellite communication devices. It is the responsibility of the user to know and follow all applicable laws in the jurisdictions where the device is intended to be used.