East Bay

Jamestown officer recounts saving man from frigid waters

JAMESTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) -- A Jamestown police officer is being hailed a hero after helping a man who had jumped off a pier last week.

According to the Jamestown Police Department, the man's friend called 911 around 1 a.m. last Thursday to report he was in the water near Wood Pile Pier.

Moments later, Officer Nathaniel Schaffer responded to the scene.

"I arrive first at the parking lot, get out of the car, and hear voices coming from one of the docks," Schaffer recalled. "So, I start running in that direction."

Schaffer said the 34-year-old man from Brighton, Massachusetts was initially responsive in the water. The man's friend told the officer he willingly jumped in. 

But as time passed, Schaffer became concerned. He was unable to direct the man to a nearby ladder with his flashlight.

"He became lifeless. He kinda floated, rolled over to his side," Schaffer explained. "His mouth was half in the water, half out. He was taking in water with each breath."

That is when Schaffer's instincts kicked in. While his sergeant was grabbing a floatation device, he jumped into the frigid water.

"It became clear we were going to have to take some type of action," Schaffer said.

Schaffer was able to grab the man and swim to the ladder. When he got there, crews attempted to help Schaffer lift the man up six feet to the dock. They were unable to do so. Officer Schaffer's supervisor then asked him to get the man to a lower dock.

"I said, 'Yeah we're going for that,' because at that point the cold started to settle in and I needed to get out of the water too," Schaffer recalled.

By the time crews got the man out of the water, Schaffer said he was unresponsive and foaming at the mouth. Both he and Schaffer were transported to the hospital. Schaffer was treated for mild hypothermia and released an hour later. He found out the man was being transferred from Newport Hospital to Rhode Island Hospital.

Less than a week later, Schaffer said both men have recovered. The man he saved even paid a visit to the Jamestown Police Station Tuesday night to say "thank you" to Officer Schaffer.

Schaffer said he was covering for a sick call the night of the rescue. 

"I think God definitely put me there for a reason," Schaffer said. "I think any other officer would have done the same thing given the circumstances."


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