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Stranger Helps 2 Men In Life Or Death Situation During Fishing Trip On Clarion River

CLARION, Pa. (KDKA) -- Two young men were on a fish trip when suddenly life and death were in the balance.

Last Saturday night, Austin Aikins and Chris Duca were on an overnight fishing trip on the Clarion River when disaster struck and a rush to save Duca's life began.

They're the best of buds — a bond formed at Central Catholic, cemented by their love of the outdoors.

Austin Aikins and Chris Duca
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

"The day was going great," said Aikins. "We were catching a bunch of fish, and we found a place to set up the tent and start a fire."

The trouble began when Duka, who has severe allergies to nuts and others things, topped off dinner with a piece of blueberry cobbler. Duca suddenly went into anaphylactic shock.

Duca's tongue swelled, his throat tightened and his breaths become shallower and shallower. With their cellphones of no use, Aikins began paddling furiously back towards Duca's EpiPen, which was 16 miles away in the car.

But as time became short, Aikins began to think of life-saving measures — like performing a tracheotomy.

"I would have tried, but I don't know what would have happened," said Aikins. "I was just praying to God that we could get somewhere and have someone call 911."

Finally, reaching a boat ramp downstream, the two scrambled up a bank and into the woods, where they saw a road and a chance of rescue.

Randy Geci, an insurance agent from St. Mary's, Pennsylvania, happened to be driving by when he saw two flashlights in the dark. He rushed them through the winding and wooded roads to the car and EpiPen. Then, took a partially stabilized Duka to Penn Highlands Elk Hospital another 20 minutes away.

KDKA connected them on Zoom.

"Only thing I can say is just, thank you," Duca said. "I'm really speechless about you taking a chance that night. There's a chance I might not be here if it wasn't for you."

"You're very welcome," Geci said. "I think Austin should be the one to get all the credit though. He got you there. Everybody kept their cool. I just gave you a 10-minute bus ride over to the truck."

Since then, the young men have taken some lessons from their near-death experience about friendship and now have restored faith in humanity.

"I'm thankful to be here, thankful for the people around me, and thankful for all the good people out in the world that you don't hear about today," Duca said.

"I think there was a higher power out there helping us, and I think the learning lesson is he always needs to have his EpiPen on him," Aikins said.

The two were back out fishing together this week to celebrate Aikins' 21s birthday and Duca's new lease on life.

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