When Emily Shoff saw her husband’s kayak capsize amid a swarm of wasps, she didn’t think he’d make it out of the river alive.

According to KGO-TV, Emily, Jake, and their three boys were in the middle of a two-week Hawaiian vacation when they decided to go kayaking down the Hanalei River on the island of Kauai.


People reported that Jake was in the boat with his two younger sons Brady, 10, and Grant, 3. They decided to turn the kayak around when the river became too narrow.

Unfortunately, while they were turning the boat around, the front of the kayak brushed a wasp nest and sent dozens of stinging insects into the air.

Jake capsized the boat to protect the boys from getting stung. But before he landed in the water, he was stung seven times. Emily was able to get her sons and her husband onto her own kayak. She already had their 14-year-old in the boat with her.

But the ordeal didn’t end there. Emily’s husband didn’t realize he was allergic to wasps until he started going numb and slipped back into the river.


Emily and her three sons watched in horror as Jake started to go into anaphylactic shock.

Two women vacationing from San Jose heard the children crying and immediately jumped out of their kayaks to help. They held Jake’s body up to keep him from drowning and wiped his face so he wouldn’t choke on his saliva.

Emily, who is six months pregnant, wrote on Facebook that it was a terrifying experience for her family and the two rescuers:

“Jake started seizing and not breathing. He was foaming at the mouth and I was holding his life vest yelling at him to breathe! As were our kids!”

While the two women held Jake out of the water, and her children continued to talk to their dad, Emily dialed for 911.

** update. Jake is home and doing so well. We appreciate all your love, texts, comments, and uplifting prayers offered…

Posted by Emily Criddle Shoff on Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The paramedics arrived 20 minutes later, gave Jake a shot of epinephrine, and rushed him to Wilcox Memorial Hospital. After two additional shots, Jake was back to normal. Emily told People:

“The doctor told him that he should have died. With his allergy, even one sting could have killed him. They said there was no medical reason why he was still alive.”

Jake's angels. Pam on the left. Michelle on the right. They saved all of us these last few days!!! We love them. I know…

Posted by Emily Criddle Shoff on Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The 300-pound former basketball player was very fortunate that he hadn’t drowned in the river. One of the women who saved him, Michelle Garcia Winner, told KGO-TV that she wouldn’t have been able to hold him if he hadn’t been wearing a floatation device:

“If that man was not wearing a life vest, there is no way he’d be alive.”

We are so extremely grateful to have Jake with us still. We love our dad and hubby so much and can't imagine a life…

Posted by Emily Criddle Shoff on Monday, July 24, 2017

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every year an estimated 332 people die from drowning in boating-related incidents in the U.S. Half of the fatalities could be prevented if the victim was wearing a life jacket.

The Shoff family has since returned to home to Utah — fortunately, with all of the family members intact.

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