Rescue 3

Rescuers make their way to a man clinging to a log in the swift-moving waters of the Niagara River off of Goat Island on Thursday.

Major Clyde Doty just kept telling the man the same thing over and over.

While he held tight to the near-unconscious man as the water rushed around them in the Niagara River rapids, roughly 100 feet from the brink of the American falls, the New York State Parks police rescuer said he continued to tell him to keep his head above water while reassuring him help was on the way.

"I just kept telling him, 'We got you, we got you. You're not going anywhere because you are a strong man,' " Doty said.

At 1:50 p.m. Thursday, Doty and the unidentified male were pulled to safety from the raging and frigid waters between Luna and Bird islands by a pair of Niagara Falls firefighters, completing a daring and at-times breathtaking rescue that lasted roughly two hours.

In an interview on Goat Island following the rescue, Doty described it as a "read and react" situation, the kind that required him and his fellow first responders to focus on their training and trust their instincts.

"I'm glad it all worked out," Doty said.

"Everybody trains and everybody reacts and that's just what we did," he added.

There were several desperate moments when it appeared the rescue would not be successful.

At one point, a pair of Falls firefighters attached to a tether line from Goat Island managed to reach the man as he was holding in place near a set of logs just above a set of rapids, further up the river. The firefighters managed to slip a rescue collar around the man's upper body, but as they started to pull him back to shore, he slipped out of the harness, slid over the set of white rapids and began floating in the direction of the American Falls.

At that moment, Doty, who was further downstream preparing to enter the water from Luna Island, said he heard a loud gasp from the dozens of onlookers who were watching the scene unfold from nearby Goat Island. He said the sound prompted him to speed up his preparation.

"There was a difference in that noise," Doty said, describing what he heard in the moments after the first rescue attempt failed. "We looked up and we saw him coming."

Doty made his way out into the swift-moving water just in time to be in the right place at the right time. As the man floated in his direction, Doty managed to grab him and held him in place.

A Falls firefighter on a tether who attempted to reach both of them initially slipped and fell under the water, forcing him to return to shore for another attempt.

The firefighter went further up the river where he was finally able to navigate his way through the rushing water and reach Doty and the man and begin the process of pulling them to shore.

Falls Fire Chief Joe Pedulla identified the Falls firefighters who assisted in the rescue as Capt. Gordy Stewart, Capt. Gerald Frazier and Firefighter Aaron Malstrom.

Like Doty, Pedulla commended the firefighters on their bravery and credited their training with helping them to successfully pull off what, at times, looked like an impossible rescue.

"You never know when something like this is going to happen and that's why you have to be ready when it does," Pedulla said.

Officials are not sure how the man ended up in the river. New York State Parks Police Capt. Christopher Rola said the man was conscious when he was pulled to the shore and taken to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center for treatment.

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