Gonzaga ROTC Cadet Helps Rescue Suicidal Man From Spokane River

SPOKANE, Wash. - A group of Army ROTC cadets from Gonzaga and Whitworth University helped rescue a suicidal man from the cold waters of the Spokane River early Friday morning.

Fire Dispatch received the water rescue call around 6 a.m. Friday near the Gonzaga campus. Police say a man jumped into the river on his own but then started screaming for help.

Meanwhile, Chris Smith and some of his fellow Army ROTC cadets from Gonzaga and Whitworth were out jogging about 5:45 Friday morning when they were told by another runner that someone was in the river calling for help.

Smith peered over the railing on the Don Kardong Bridge and spotted a middle-aged man barely hanging on to the base of the bridge. Smith went over the edge, climbed his way to the abutment, dropped down and was able to pull the suicidal man out of the water.

The 19-year-old, who participated in Airborne training this summer, then put some of his military medical skills to work.

"Once I got him on to the slab he was soaking wet, he was shivering, he was really cold, so I took off his clothing and my buddies who were still up on the bridge took off their jackets so I wrapped him up," Smith said.

Firefighters with the Spokane Fire Department arrived at the bridge and lowered a ladder so the man could climb up. The man admitted he was trying to commit suicide and was involuntarily committed to Sacred Heart Medical Center for symptoms of hypothermia.

Smith said the rescue was very much a group effort and was very impressed with the number of strangers who stopped to help, and added he was glad the man he helped save has a chance now to change his outlook on life.