John M. Murphy

A 71-year-old man was fishing Dec. 18, 2021, in the 44-degree Sacramento River in Castella, California, when he lost his footing and was carried downstream. Bracing against an underwater boulder, Mark E. Likos held his head above water and shouted for help, as rushing water washed over him. In Likos’ party, John M. Murphy, 39, a stay-at-home parent of Antioch, California, responded and entered the cold, swift water. Positioning himself behind Likos, he braced his feet on rocks and pulled Likos’ upper body out of the water. Likos fell in and out of consciousness and Murphy had to wake him repeatedly. The current threatened to pull the men into the deeper current on either side of them. Murphy adjusted his position to remain stable. Rescue personnel arrived after Murphy had been in the water for an hour. Murphy then helped two rescue swimmers move Likos to an exposed boulder upstream where he was removed from the river by helicopter. He suffered hypothermia and nerve damage to his hands and arms. Murphy, who was nearly exhausted, was assisted to safety by rescue personnel. He suffered mild hypothermia and recovered.

Taken during the rescue, John J. Murphy is seen holding to Mark E. Likos. Murphy maintained his position in the 44-degree water for more than an hour before rescuers arrived to assist.