Wayne R. Christiansen saved Shirley A. Smalls from drowning, Toms River, New Jersey, December 13, 2003. Ms. Smalls, 60, was the driver of a sport utility vehicle that in an accident left the roadway and entered the Union Branch of the Toms River. Christiansen, 47, siding installer who lived nearby, witnessed the accident. He ran to the bank of the stream, removed his shoes, and, despite the 36-degree water, entered the stream and swam to the passenger side of the vehicle, which was about 10 feet from the bank. The vehicle still sinking, with water then to the bottom of its windows, Christiansen tried to open the front door but had no success. He opened the back door, entered the vehicle, and grasped Ms. Smalls, then backed from the vehicle, pulling her. Christiansen swam Ms. Smalls back to the bank, where others assisted them from the water. Ms. Smalls sustained contusions, and she recovered.
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