500-Lb. Man Grateful for River Rescue

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

MINNEAPOLIS – A 500-pound man who was hurt while drifting down a river on an innertube is grateful to the crews who saved him _ but says he’d like to lose some weight.

Crews worked for 12 hours earlier this week to rescue 39-year-old Martin Rike. Because Rike was stranded in shallow water, rescuers floated him to safety on a platform made from three canoes that had been lashed together.

“The evil potato chip has done its dirty work on me,” said Rike, who was recovering Wednesday at his home in Pine City. “It’s just too easy to grab the Fritos or the Old Dutch tater chips and keep going. It’s one of those things I keep trying to improve.”

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He also thanked his rescuers: “I’m getting all the attention, but the kudos here goes to the rescue teams,” he said. “They’re the heroes of this situation.”

Rike and three friends were tubing Monday on the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin when his tube hit a rock and deflated. Rike said the group decided to walk about two miles downriver to an exit point. But Rike slipped on wet rocks and twisted his ankle, and cut up his legs below the knees walking through thistles and weeds.

Though his breathing was labored, reports that he was close to a heart attack were false, he said.

“I basically started hyperventilating because of the hurt ankle, and I had to keep stopping, and basically we weren’t getting anywhere,” he said.

The tubing trip was actually inspired by Rike’s efforts to become fit. Rike said he decided to go tubing for the first time after his doctor urged him to be more active and recommended swimming.

“I figured tubing was sort of like swimming _ you kick your legs, you pull with the arms and you can just rest and float if you get tired,” Rike said. “I wasn’t counting on a rock taking out the tube.”

Rike said that despite being seriously overweight, he’s in “pretty good health. They’ve tested me for diabetes, which I don’t have, and my blood pressure is actually pretty good.” But he’s struggled with his weight for his whole life, he said.

Rike, who is about 6 feet tall, said obesity runs in his family. His brother and sister have both undergone gastric surgeries to lose weight.

An out-of-work truck driver, Rike said he would like to undergo a similar procedure but has not had medical insurance for several years now, relying instead on medical assistance from the state. Now he’s afraid he won’t be able to get a health clearance to return to truck driving.

Rike said he will look for other ways to be physically active in the future. “I think we can pretty much discount the tubing trips,” he said.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)