Missing Durango kayakers have been found in Tajikistan
Paddlers had sent two emergency signals
Courtesy of Julia Klema
A five-member kayaking expedition in Tajikistan, including three men from Durango, that called for emergency help Monday, Sept. 30, has been found, but one of three Durango men is too sick to continue.
Ben Luck, suffering from hypothermia and altitude sickness, was airlifted to the U.S. embassy in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, said Julia Klema, the sister of Matthew Klema and Nathan Klema, the Durango brothers who also are among the kayakers.
Julia Klema said her father, Tom, was notified of the rescue at 3 a.m. today. The search for the three men was coordinated by GEOS Alliance, an emergency-response service, which alerted the Klema family of the men’s call for help on Monday.
Cooper Lambla and Charles King are the other members of the expedition. The men dropped off Sunday, Sept. 29, in Badakhshan National Park from where they were going to hike to the Muksu River for a five-day run.
The Klema brothers and their partners, Lambla and King, are resupplying and plan to continue. They had backtracked some distance carrying Luck, Julia Klema said.
She doesn’t know what Luck’s current plans are in returning to the United States.
On Wednesday, Oct. 2, Klema family members and friends had been working the phones as they awaited word about the trio and the two other men.
The kayakers had sent an SOS through GEOS Alliance, an emergency-response service, that the Klema family received about 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 30, Julia Klema said Wednesday.
“It was a prepared message indicating they needed help,” she said. “There’s no text in those messages, but it gives the geographical coordinates.”
The men, who are on an international kayaking expedition, were in eastern Tajikistan to run the Muksu River. They already had spent a month in Siberia and a month in Tajikistan’s neighboring country, Kyrgyzstan, exploring rivers.
“I talked to Matt on Sept. 24,” said Julia Klema, contacted in person Wednesday, Oct. 2, at her parents’ Durango house, where the family was busy on phones and waiting for calls. “They planned to spend about two weeks in Tajikistan, then go on to Katmandu (Nepal).”
The men also wanted to visit India and China, and perhaps other places, Klema said. Their planned return is not until December at the earliest, she said.
Matt Klema, 29; Nathan Klema, 24; and Luck, 24; all students at Fort Lewis College, took a year off for the kayaking expedition, Julia Klema said.
The men arrived in Badakhshan National Park on Sunday in preparation for crossing 16,800-foot Takhtakorum Pass then descending to the Muksu River, Julia Klema said.
An initial attempt by Luck’s father, Matt, to get a private rescue firm to send a helicopter to the area proved unsuccessful, Julia Klema said. There was too much bureaucracy, and the chopper never got into the air.
The Klemas, through friends of friends, were able to hire another helicopter, which located a broken kayak but no people at a spot on the Muksu River. That was about 6 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, in Durango (about 5 p.m. in Tajikistan).
A short time later, the family learned through GEOS Alliance that a second signal had been received from the men.
“The GPS coordinates indicated that they had moved only six miles,” Julia Klema said.
Julia Klema’s suspicions on Wednesday, Oct. 2, that one of the paddlers had been injured or become sick proved true when the got word of the rescue on Thursday, Oct. 3.