Curtis Dawson helped to rescue David M. Schmelzer from drowning, Astoria, Oregon, December 3, 2005. Schmelzer, 67, was the captain of a tugboat that was towing a barge on the Columbia River at night. The tugboat capsized in the swift ebb-tide current and floated upside down and partially submerged. Dawson, 47, assistant engineer, was working as a deckhand on the barge and witnessed the accident. Minutes later, he saw Schmelzer, unconscious, float toward the surface of the water alongside the barge. Although both the barge and the tugboat were then adrift, Dawson, fully attired, jumped five feet down into the river, despite the coldness of the water and limited visibility in the darkness. He swam to Schmelzer, grasped his jacket, and pulled his head above water. Realizing that they were being carried away from the barge, Dawson started to swim back to it, Schmelzer in tow. A deckhand threw a rope to Dawson and pulled the men to the side of the barge. With another man holding him, the deckhand leaned over the side of the barge, grasped Schmelzer, and with others worked with Dawson for several minutes to lift him to the barge deck. Cold and becoming numb, Dawson climbed and was aided from the water back to the deck. A bar pilot helicopter responded soon and lowered a sling that was used to lift Schmelzer from the water. He was taken ashore and then to the hospital, where he was admitted for treatment. Dawson also was taken to the hospital, where he was treated for cold-water immersion. Both men recovered.
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