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Teens Help Pull Victim From River

Some local teens were instrumental in pulling a potential drowning victim out of the water on Thursday night, Sept. 1 at McHenry Recreation Area in Escalon.

The victim, whose age and name were not released, was taken to a Modesto hospital by Escalon Community Ambulance crews after the rescue.

Escalon High School seniors Austin Ewing and Zackary Smallwood shared their version of the incident with The Times, admitting that they just felt the need to spring into action.

“We were at the river, jumping off a rope swing,” Ewing said of how the early evening outing on Thursday started, looking to cool off in the hot weather.

He said some other people soon arrived at the river as well and in one group, there were several people including one that was in the river, appearing to be struggling to stay above water and gasping for air.

“We started swimming toward him,” Ewing explained of himself and another friend on scene, “and it ended up in a rescue. Our other buddy spotted him and once he came up (for air) I jumped in to help out.”

Smallwood, whose parents are in the medical field, said he had an idea of what to do once his friends had gotten the victim to shore.

“I started doing compressions and some mouth-to-mouth,” the teen said of starting CPR, adding that he flipped the victim on his side as he started to cough up water. “It was pretty intense … my mom is a nurse and my dad is a paramedic, so I thought, I can do this.”

Escalon Fire and Escalon Community Ambulance crews were dispatched to the scene for a report of a possible drowning. Battalion Chief Dan Morriss said the fire department got the call about 7:35 p.m. Thursday.

“According to his friends, the victim’s arms came up in a distressed motion, they went in to help,” Morriss explained. “When we got on scene, Medic 80 was doing CPR, we assisted, and he (the victim) had pulses and respirations at the emergency room.”

Escalon Police also responded, alerted to the incident by the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, which had a unit on the way but requested assistance from Escalon officers as well.

As far as their involvement, Smallwood and Ewing agreed that there wasn’t any thought to participating in the rescue effort, it was something they had to do.

“I was just trying to help,” Smallwood said.