Brian R. Gadwell and Steven A. Rauser helped to rescue Ethel M. Woodger from drowning, Detroit, Michigan, April 17, 2017.
At night in a park adjacent the Detroit River, Woodger, 34, fell from a concrete bulkhead into cold, deep water from which there was no easy egress. Detroit Police officers alerted to the incident, Gadwell, 39, and Rauser, 37, responded to the scene, moved to the top of the bulkhead that was about 6 feet above the water’s surface, and observed Woodger struggling to stay afloat.
Gadwell removed his duty gear and jumped into the cold water, the temperature of which was estimated to be in the 40s. Gadwell grasped Woodger about her torso and moved with her to the bulkhead, where he wrapped his legs around her and held to a steel rod that jutted from the bulkhead. Gadwell, for several minutes, secured Woodger at the bulkhead, keeping her afloat. Ultimately, he struggled to retain his hold on the rod and called out that he was losing his grip.
Rauser jumped into the river. Taking control of Woodger, Rauser grasped her with one arm and held onto the rod with the other. Woodger wrapped her arms around Rauser’s neck and began to pull him away from the bulkhead. Rauser, who was briefly submerged twice, told her to stop and tried to calm her. Ultimately Woodger disengaged from Rauser and drifted a few feet away, beyond Rauser’s reach.
A boat responded from nearby and Woodger was pulled into the boat by its crew. Gadwell and Rauser were lifted from the water by emergency personnel who had responded to the scene. Woodger was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Gadwell and Rauser were taken by ambulance to the hospital for treatment of exposure to cold water. They recovered.