Three friends, two dogs and one giant bright pink flamingo float were all rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard after they were swept away by strong winds in Alaska waters on Saturday.
Hollie Spence told The Washington Post that she was celebrating her 30th birthday with her roommate, brother and their two dogs when they climbed onto a 10-foot inflatable pink flamingo raft on Monashka Bay in Kodiak Island, Alaska.
The sky was clear and the sun was out, but, she said, it was windy. After an hour floating, the group was swept from the waters of Monashka Bay to the Gulf of Alaska.
“I panicked right away,” Spence told The Post on Monday. “We didn’t have anything to move ourselves and the wind was strong. My mind went to the worst place.”
At some point, the flamingo got caught in a cluster of rocks with sharp barnacles before it started to slowly deflate, according to Spence. As the raft took on water, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter rescued and airlifted them to safety, she said.
"An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak hoisted three people with two dogs stranded on offshore rocks near Kodiak today after their raft was swept across Monashka Bay!" the U.S. Coast Guard said in a Facebook post. "A helicopter hoist was the best option to bring these folks and their animals back to shore, safe and sound!"
Colin Dickey, a bystander who watched the incident unfold, told NBC News on Wednesday that the sight was a "shocker."
"When my girlfriend called me over from the window, I fully anticipated to see a whale but instead I saw a rather large floating pink flamingo," he said.
Dickey said he often sees kayaks and motorized fish boats on the waters daily and assumed that the group knew what they were doing.
"It was so strange," he said. "I was surprised to see someone out on the waters, and my first thought was that maybe they were meeting another boat somewhere since I couldn't see any paddles."
Spence told The Post that the harrowing journey was "terrifying," adding that she has no plans to return to the water again.
“It was an experience I will never in my life forget, ever. Especially since it was my 30th birthday,” she said.