ITHACA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Cornell University says three of its students rescued a fisherman from the frigid waters off the shore of Taughannock Falls State Park on March 10.
The fisherman, whose name was not available, was fishing off the end of a pier with his grandsons when he fell in the water, which had a temperature estimated at 40 degrees.
According to Cornell University, students Alexander Chung, Anjan Mani, and Felipe Santamaria were in the park and responded to calls for help for the 62-year-old man.
Mani said that when he and Santamaria got to the end of the pier, they saw the man holding onto the ladder along the face of the pier. “Once I saw the guy, we started taking off our shoes and hats,” Santamaria said. “And I went down the ladder [and into the water] and Anjan stayed on top and reached his arms down to grab him.”
The students said the man had been in the water several minutes and was losing strength.
“At one point, when I tried to pull him and myself up, I fell in completely,” Santamaria said. “And then I was kind of in the same position that he was in. … And he said something like. ‘Oh, don’t worry about me, save yourself first’. That really scared me.”
“I was trying to push his legs up onto the ladder,” Santamaria said, “but he kept saying, ‘I can’t do it. I can’t’.”
Santamaria was told by the others to swim to the shore, that’s when Chung and Mani went in the water. Instead of trying to get him up the ladder, they held on to the man’s arms and swam around the pier to the shoreline.
Chung said the man was “pretty responsive and was able to clearly communicate” even while they were pulling him to shore. And Mani said that while he was dealing with the extreme cold, “The man was saying, ‘How are you guys doing? Are you students? What’s going on with you?’ He was calming me down a lot. He was such a nice guy.”
Mani said the water was a lot colder than he expected. “It was about a minute before I could talk before I could start helping the man,” he said. “I was just trying to keep my head above water.”
The man was transported to Cayuga Medical Center and released later in the day.
After the rescue, Mani said that he “felt so grateful to have been able to help someone in that way, particularly during what’s been such a trying year.”