Severn River Rescuer: 'Somebody Had to Help'
One of the two men who saved a bridge jumper's life on Wednesday tells Patch what went through his head during the rescue.
A volunteer firefighter from Pasadena heroically rescued a man who jumped into the Severn River on Wednesday. He told Patch how shocked he was to see the man jump off the Severn River Bridge before his instincts took over.
Joe Horton, 28, of Pasadena is a Prince George's County volunteer firefighter and EMT. Horton and Fred Kelly, the head of the Severn Riverkeeper Program, met for the first time on the river, while trying to save Steven Anderson, who jumped from the bridge.
Horton said he read Patch's story about Wednesday afternoon's rescue, and wanted to give his perspective of the event. What follows is his narrative of what happened.
Me and my brother had been working and were driving across Route 50 on the bridge, and I saw the vehicles slow down. I thought, ‘Oh maybe somebody had a flat tire.' Then I see this guy get out of his car, and went over to the wall, swung his legs over the bridge and just jumped off.
It's, you know, 250 or 300 feet. It's a significant drop. I saw him jump off, and you know, you’re in such shock. The first thing I did was I contemplated jumping off after him, but realized that’s probably not the brightest idea. I looked down and I saw him down there, and he was moving his arms like he was treading water. I could see his arms flailing. So I was trying to use my skills, and figure out how to get to the guy.
So I ran across the bridge, with all these cars coming at me with my brother following behind me, and there was a fence 8-9 feet high. I jumped over that, went down a steep hill, and got down there to where the beach area is. I saw a boat thinking I could commandeer that. So, I banged on these people's house, but then the guy came out and said the boat hadn’t run in two years.
So I said, somebody had to help this guy. Obviously he wasn’t stopping for a scenic view. I told my brother I was going to swim out there to him. My brother said, ‘You’re crazy.’
I took all my clothes off except my boxers, because I didn’t want to be weighed down in the water. Left my clothes right there on the beach. At the time I thought it was a pretty warm day, so it might not be that cold. But by the time I got out there, it was so cold that I could barely move. I swam out there, got about 20 or 30 feet out and realized that I could probably get to the guy, but was worried about what I’d do once I got to him. So, I turned around and came back.
Then I saw there was a canoe and a kayak, off to the side. It didn’t look like it had been used in five years or so. So I just grabbed the kayak and threw it down on the beach, and there was a paddle inside. I jumped in there and went ballistic with that paddle to get out there to the guy. By the time I got out there, there was a boat, it turned out to be [the Severn Riverkeeper] Fred Kelly. He had come out there because his grandson was on the bridge and saw the guy jump. So he had called his grandfather.
Fred was grabbing the guy by his sweatshirt, but the guy weighed like 270 pounds or something, and I was still in the kayak, and there was no way he was getting the guy in the boat alone, and I couldn’t get close enough to the boat because of the current. We were both fighting the current. So I jumped out of the kayak and managed to get up into the boat. I just sort of bear-hugged the guy underneath his arms, and Fred grabbed him by his belt and pulled him into the boat.
Then we got him in, and I’m an EMT, so I turned his head to the side and got most of the water out of his mouth and started CPR right away, and he hauled off to the pier. Me and Fred were able to get him off the boat onto the pier, and I got off and started CPR again and that’s when the fire department arrived.
Horton and Kelly were separated once the ambulance arrived, and Horton was treated for hypothermia. He said he lost contact with Kelly until after the incident was over. Later, he looked the riverkeeper up online and gave him a call. The two met for drinks to talk about the day's adventure.
"He's a really neat guy, and I'm glad I met him," Horton said of Kelly. "I don't know what I'd have done if it was just me out there alone, and I don't know what he'd have done without me there. It's just one of those things that worked out, like a textbook operation."
Anderson was listed in stable condition at Anne Arundel Medical Center on Wednesday evening, according to Maryland State Police Cpl. David Johnson.