GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Michael Beer, a firefighter who lives in Gaston County, was rescued from the South Fork River Wednesday afternoon.
From WBTV's SKY 3 helicopter, members of the public watched as Beer clung to a dam in the river.
He spoke to WBTV Friday afternoon regarding his rescue.
He said he and his friend, David Berryhill, initially planned to spend some time on the water Wednesday, but the men underestimated the currents on the river.
Heavy rainfall had pounded the area for two days.
"We were just going to kayak, paddle around, maybe fish a little," recalled Beer.
The men said the excursion got off to a bumpy start when Berryhill fell out of his kayak. Beer tried to follow the kayak down river.
Berryhill waited for his friend to return, but Beer never came back.
"Next thing you know he's missing. He's MIA so I'm freaking out and hearing sirens and wondering what's going on," explained Berryhill.
Beer had also fallen out of his kayak. He said he floated down the river for about a mile and eventually grabbed hold of some debris along a dam in the river.
He described to WBTV the process of keeping himself above water.
"You know hold myself up, keep from getting pulled under. At one point it was, you know, I gotta do this. I can't not live. I gotta stay up," described Beer.
The kayaker said that fishermen along the banks of the river called 9-1-1. Beer even snapped a photo with his phone as firefighters showed up to help him.
"If I would have let go I would have got pulled under the debris then stopped by the dam and then not been able to fight up through the debris or get over the dam," said Beer.
Firefighters tried to reach Beer with a ladder from a firetruck but it wasn't long enough. After an hour and half of clinging to the dam, Beer was saved when rescuers floated down river to him in a boat.
Both Beer and Berryhill learned a hard lesson Wednesday.
"Be more careful about being on the water, conditions on the water and all that," said Beer.
The volunteer firefighter admits that the situation was embarrassing because he works as a first responder.
He said he plans to visit several of the local fire departments and thank the firefighters who helped save him on Wednesday.