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Biking hero helps save man from drowning in Willamette River

Posted by on January 26th, 2012 at 8:29 am

spring day on the Esplanade

Good thing someone was riding by!
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) shared a heroic tale this morning about a man who was riding his bike on the Eastbank Esplanade late last night and heard someone yelling for help and struggling in the Willamette River.

According to the fire department, Dan Sinclair was riding southbound on the Esplanade near the Hawthorne Bridge at about 11:15 pm when he “heard a voice calling for help from the river below.” Sinclair stopped, scanned the water, and then noticed someone splashing about 25 yards off shore. Here’s more from a fire department statement:

“Sinclair immediately rode his bike the short distance to Portland Fire Station 21 (Eastbank/Hawthorne Bridge) to alert firefighters that someone needed help. Also on shore were two men, Sam Policar and Justin Wisdom, who were sturgeon fishing. While Sinclair went for help, Policar and Wisdom attempted to hook onto the man with their fishing lines to pull him to shore. Fortunately, the river’s current pushed the struggling man closer to shore. Wisdom took off his coat, poked one of his coat sleeves through a fence, and the man was able to grab on.”

“Dan Sinclair was riding his bicycle along the Eastbank Esplanade headed southbound when he heard a voice calling for help from the river below.”
— From a Portland Fire & Rescue statement

As Mr. Wisdom and the swimmer struggled to maintain contact, the firefighters approached in a rescue boat. Then Bill Schimel, a 12-year veteran of PF&R plopped into the water and tried to pull the man on board.

The current was swift, the statement says. “I knew that if I lost my grip on him, he would drift under a massive debris field of logs that was floating just 100 yards downstream and likely be pulled under,” said Schimel.

The man was rescued and taken to OHSU for observation as a precaution. Rescue officials still don’t know how the man ended up in the water.

Three cheers for Dan Sinclair and for the “eyes on the street” effect of bicycling!

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  • Lance P. January 26, 2012 at 9:00 am

    This is why I love Portland. People are always ready and willing to help out.

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  • Joe January 26, 2012 at 9:13 am

    awesome hero’s !

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  • Mike Fish January 26, 2012 at 9:26 am


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  • PDXRon January 26, 2012 at 9:56 am

    While crossing the Hawthorne I sometimes ask myself if I would jump in to rescue someone if they were in the water. Dan is very brave for actually doing it, particularly given the condtions of the river right now.

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    • -J January 26, 2012 at 10:12 am

      What Dan did was admirable, but from the story it appears it was a firefighter, Bill Schimel, who actually went into the water to assist. And Dan really did the right thing in quickly going to the station to alert them – if he would have jumped in the water there could have been two people needing rescue.

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  • K'Tesh January 26, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Good Job!!! Always glad to hear good news!

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  • sorebore January 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Six comments for good deeds, so far 38 comments on hit and run article four hours newer! People like bad news, really.!!
    Way to go Mr. Hero dude ! Someone owes you a beer1

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  • Scaryseth January 26, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Well done! 🙂

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  • annefi January 26, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    And cheers to the sturgeon fishermen, too!

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  • Mike January 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Very little mention of the fishing heros. Too bad they chose the wrong hobby.

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  • cyclehappy January 30, 2012 at 12:15 am

    All the gentlemen mentioned in the article deserve kudos. Well done and thank you for setting such a lovely example for the city :>)

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