BRANSON, Mo. — Dave Larson was speeding back to the boat ramp when a flashing white speck on the shoreline of Table Rock Lake caught his attention. Approaching the object revealed a large piece of Styrofoam waved by a shivering man wearing wet clothes.
The man on the bank was Daniel Tscherny and he was in dire trouble.
Minutes before, Larson, a pro from Minnetonka, Minn., departed Table Rock State Park Marina after refueling his boat following Day 1 of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open presented by Allstate.
“I was in the very last flight and stayed longer than normal to work on tackle and my boat,” he recounted.
The late departure was a godsend for Tscherny, of Springfield, Mo., a distance swimmer. Hours earlier Tscherny embarked on a swim stretching 3 miles across the lake, from Indian Point to the Dewey Short area near the dam.
Tscherny’s wife and a co-worker flanked him in kayaks. The paddlers made it easier for approaching powerboats to spot him. The kayaks provided a safe passage should he grow tired from swimming.
“I was very tired, hungry and dehydrated,” said Tscherny, upon finishing the first leg of his swim. “We needed to get back to the launch site, where we had plenty of food and water.”
His wife got a ride back by vehicle while Tscherny and the co-worker paddled the kayaks toward the launch site. The conditions for kayaking grew treacherous as a brisk north wind whipped the surface into a heavy chop.
Tscherny abandoned his kayak after getting it swamped in the strong waves. The friend paddled her kayak ashore and helped the struggling Tcherny get to land. She then headed down lake to rescue Tscherny’s kayak. The plan was to return so both could paddle to safety.
By then sunset was approaching and Tscherny had no food or water. He knew getting rescued before dark would be a miracle. He was beginning to feel the early effects of hypothermia.
Tscherny scavenged the nearby woods and found the piece of Styrofoam. Distant boats speeding across the lake were unable to spot him waving the object to get their attention.
“I was feeling very hypothermic and was just praying that someone would find and help us.”
About two hours after swamping the kayak someone finally spotted him. It was Larson.
“I could see it was a person almost in a panic,” he recalled.
Tscherny frantically waved the Styrofoam to get his attention.
“I was so overjoyed that I dropped the Styrofoam and got in the water to swim to him,” he added.
Larson helped Tscherny aboard and searched for the co-worker. She was 3/4 mile away towing the second kayak behind her own. By then the friend was in dire need, exhausted and shaking from the impending nighttime cold.
“She got out of her kayak and upon seeing us immediately fell into the water from exhaustion,” said Tscherny.
Larsen loaded the second kayak with the friend and took them back to the launch site.
Tscherny borrowed Larson’s cellphone to call his wife. She was connected to the 911 operator. The emergency response was cancelled after confirming everyone was safe.
“I’m just glad for once that I was late leaving the weigh-in,” said Larson.
“It was the best boat ride I’ve ever had, and I owe Dave big time,” added Tscherny.