AMESBURY — Three local high school students are being hailed as heroes after saving a man from drowning on the Saco River last week.
Chris Lamott, Jeremy Conlin and Zach Morin are rising sophomores at Amesbury High School and were on an inner tube trip down the river about noon Wednesday.
Everything was going well on the river when the boys suddenly noticed an older couple ahead of them having trouble.
“The older man and his wife were connected,” Chris said. “But the older man had gotten off his tube without his life jacket on.”
He said the man tried to swim over to the side of the river but got into further trouble.
“It was about 6 feet deep there and he was using up a lot of energy trying to get over there,” Chris said. “He just locked up and started struggling.”
The man’s head began bobbing up and down in the water and he called out for help.
“He was completely underwater,” Chris said. “At first, I didn’t think it was that serious. But Zach and Jeremy instantly reacted and we all went over to him.”
Chris said Jeremy grabbed the man and he and Zach did their part to help.
“Jeremy was holding him up so that his body wasn’t in the water,” Chris said. “I was holding up his head because his head kept bobbing in and out of the water. He was all locked up and was expending a lot of energy. Then, Zach was pushing us through the river because that was going against us.”
Working together, the three young men led the man upstream over rocks and past floating branches to a platform where they could lift him.
“He just had no energy,” Chris said. “It took about five minutes for us to get him there because he was out of breath and we would have to hold him up so that he could catch his breath and then we could go further.”
Getting the man to safety proved to be no easy task, Jeremy said.
“He couldn’t move or anything and his whole body was locked up,” Jeremy said. “He kept saying, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.’ So we held him up for air.”
With everyone on land, Chris flagged down help while Jeremy’s father, Jim, and a couple of the boys headed back for the man’s wife and helped her to get back as well.
“I was worried for (the man) until the professionals got there,” Jeremy said. “He couldn’t really speak and was breathing heavy. But on the way out, he said, ‘Thank you’ about five times. His wife was pretty mad because she told him to put his life jacket on before they got in the water.”
Jim Conlin said the man appeared to be in his early 70s and his wife told them he recently suffered a stroke.
Conway Village Fire Chief Stephen Solomon said the man did not give his name and refused transport to a hospital.
Chris Conlin said it wasn’t until much later that he and his friends realized how much adrenaline was pumping through them.
“I was just sitting there, shaking,” he said. “It wasn’t until after the ambulance came and went and we were about to leave that I calmed down. But it felt good to do that.”
“I’m happy that we saved him,” Zach added. “I’m happy that he’s good.”
All three boys said they were pleased with their quick response.
“My family has told me many times that they are proud of me,” Jeremy said. “I think I was just doing something that anybody would have done.”
Jim Conlin said he was proud of his son and his friends.
“They all had to figure out what they had to do” to get the man out of the water, he said. “But that is what they did.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.