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Duo Save Man's Life

Reports of an erratic driver quickly changed into 9-1-1 calls of a vehicle in the canal at McHenry and Meyers on Wednesday morning ... and Escalon resident Robert Adams owes his life to a couple of men who risked their own to save him.

Adams, 54, a diabetic, reportedly went into insulin shock, which caused him to lose control of his truck and veer off the roadway, taking out a utility pole and plunging into the irrigation canal. As his truck was dipping into the water, Escalon resident Rod Small and Steve Dillman of Ripon sprang into action.

"I was driving southbound on McHenry approaching Meyers and I saw some power lines arcing," Small, a former volunteer firefighter for Escalon, remembered. "There was a truck and two other vehicles in front of me, then in front of them, I saw the water spray."

Small quickly realized what had happened; the wires arcing were due to the pole being snapped and the water spray occurred when the truck went into the canal.

Small pulled off and made his way to the canal bank, seeing Steve Dillman doing the same from the other side of the road.

"The vehicle came up close to the bank," Small explained of Adams' truck. "The hood of the truck was dipping down, then it spun out in the current."

Working together, Small and Dillman were able to get to Adams, who was conscious but disoriented, and worked to get him free from the truck, pulling him out through the back window.

"Steve and I hopped in the back of the pick up, we pulled him out and got out of the water," Small said. "Once the vehicle entered the water, he only had three to four minutes for it to stay up."

Several other motorists stopped to help in any way they could and Escalon police, fire and ambulance crews also responded to the scene, in addition to the CHP, with the crash occurring just before 8 a.m. on Wednesday, April 8.

"It happened pretty fast," Small admitted of the rescue. "By the time Steve and I got to him, he (Adams) had turned himself and was making his way to the back of the vehicle."

Adams escaped with only minor injuries, including a laceration to his left hand, some cuts and bruises. He was taken to Memorial Medical Center and had the chance to personally thank both his rescuers when the men gathered in his hospital room for a meeting and photos on Thursday evening.

Small said he didn't think about anything except getting Adams out of the truck as the situation unfolded; his previous training just kicked in.

"I feel proud that I was taught how to do it and what to do, how it all came together in the water," he said of having some water rescue training through the fire department. "I knew what I needed to do."

For Dillman, who was northbound on McHenry, he saw the accident in front of him and also reacted instinctively, not giving any thought to the possible consequences of jumping into the canal to attempt the rescue.

Emergency personnel hailed the two men as heroes, no doubt saving Adams' life. His truck disappeared under the water and floated some 200 to 300 feet downstream just seconds after he was pulled from the vehicle.

"In this day and age, with all the bad news, here's something that's a good thing," said Escalon Community Ambulance Chef Mike Pitassi. "This was very cool ... the average guy doing that they know is right."

Pitassi said Small and Dillman read the situation perfectly, knowing that Adams couldn't get out alone.

"They knew he wasn't going to survive and they took their shot," Pitassi said. "They risked a lot, jumping in ... it was a life and death situation and they really hung it out there for this guy.

"That puts a lump in my throat when I see that."