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5 US kayakers, including 3 from Durango, rescued in Tajikistan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A helicopter search team has found and rescued five Americans, including three Durango, Colo., men, who went missing for several days while on a kayaking trip in the central Asian nation of Tajikistan, a source in the Interior Ministry told the Russian news site RIA Novosti today.

One of the kayakers had a broken leg, but the other four were in satisfactory condition, the source said.

The group was traveling to Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, by helicopter, RIA Novosti said.

The travelers — Ben Luck, Cooper Lambla, Matt Klema, Nate Klema and Charles King — were in the middle of an extended adventure trip through Eurasia and were kayaking down eastern Tajikistan’s Balandkiik River when they set off an emergency beacon on Sept. 30, indicating they were in trouble.

The GPS coordinates put their location inside Tajikistan’s Pamir National Park, a remote and wild area home to some of Asia’s highest peaks, according to RIA Novosti.

A helicopter search-and-rescue team on Oct. 1 found a broken kayak and a backpack in the region, Outside magazine reported on its website.


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Matt Klema, 29; Nathan Klema, 24, and Luck, 24, are all students at Fort Lewis College in Durango and had taken a year off for the kayaking expedition, the Klema brothers’ sister Julia Klema told The Durango Herald.

Julia Klema told The Herald that all the men are experienced kayakers and travelers, who have run rapids in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, New Zealand and India.

The Klema brothers are Colorado River guides in the Grand Canyon, Julia Klema said.

Nathan Klema has been in tight spots before, his sister told The Herald. He escaped injury in February when an avalanche near Silverton Mountain ski area killed a Durango friend, Peter Carver, and injured another member of the party.