Charles Lee Montgomery helped to save George A. Zappone and John A. Thomas, Sr., from drowning, Industry, Pennsylvania, January 9, 2005. Zappone, 44, and Thomas, 35, were crewmembers of a 108-foot towboat that, pushing six barges on the Ohio River, was swept by the extremely swift current through an open gate of a dam at night. The boat came to rest upright in very turbulent water below the dam, at a point about 30 feet from the structure. Only a few feet of the boat’s pilothouse were visible above the water, which was frigid, as was the air. Shouting for help, Zappone and Thomas held to a ladder affixed to the pilothouse for more than an hour. Montgomery, 41, was the pilot of a 66-foot towboat that was moored several miles downstream. Learning of the accident, he took his boat to the scene, accompanied by a crew of three. Careful to avoid debris and the breakaway barges, Montgomery positioned his vessel in the turbulent water in close proximity to the submerged one. He worked to hold the boat in place, to keep it from being drawn to the dam by a strong back flow. Although the lower deck was swamped, the other members of the crew threw life rings from there to Zappone and Thomas. Zappone grasped one of the rings and was pulled aboard the rescue boat by its crew, one of whom then tended him inside the craft. The other crewmembers pulled Thomas in and lifted him aboard. Montgomery rode his boat with the downstream current, then turned it around and took it to the safety of a nearby power plant. Zappone and Thomas were taken to the hospital, where they were treated for hypothermia and other injuries. Four other men aboard their boat were claimed by the accident.
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