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Manchester kayakers, from left, Chris Forand, Carl Albright, Normand Forand and Adam Forand prepare to return to the Merrimack River in Manchester on Thursday after fire rescue crews pulled Albright and Normand Forand from the water. (MICHAEL COUSINEAU/Union Leader)

Calls along the Merrimack River keep fire crews hopping July 4th

MANCHESTER — Normand Forand felt a cold splash of reality Thursday during his first time out in a kayak.

"A big wave came over the kayak and I was floating from then on," said Forand, one of four Manchester kayakers maneuvering the Merrimack River from Manchester to Merrimack.

Forand and a friend, Carl Albright, were tossed from their kayak while Forand's two nephews remained in their own watercraft around 12:45 p.m. Someone at Arms Park suspected trouble and called authorities, who launched two fire department boats to scoop up those needing a ride to the boat launch near Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

"They were fine," Lt. Pete Franggos said. "They're just enjoying a day out in the water."

Manchester fire crews were busy with water-related calls.

They used chains to help secure a dock — with about a half-dozen boats attached — that was breaking away from shore at 17 Riverfront Drive.

"If the dock goes, the boats go with it," District Fire Chief Jim Michael said.

While crews were there, they saw a wakeboarder having trouble in the Merrimack and were yelling that a dam was up ahead. The boat the wakeboarder was with had to get in front of the troubled wakeboarder, pulling him into the boat underneath the Amoskeag bridge near a safety cable strung across the river, south of the bridge, Michael said.

The safety line is the last chance to stop a boat or a person from going over the falls, he said.

"It was a close call," he said, noting the wakeboarder could have been killed if not rescued in time.

Michael said the current in the Merrimack is about 33 percent "above normal in strength."

With the group of kayakers, Albright said he was the first one in the water when his kayak hit a bridge column.

"I just flipped," he said. "We're all good swimmers."

Normand Forand's nephew, Chris Forand, said, "I was embarrassed" the fire department was called out.

After they reached shore, the four kayakers soon returned to their watercraft to head to Merrimack to complete their 10-mile journey.

"We have to get to our cars," Albright said.

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