Some quick thinking and swift action by five Alfred State College students recently led to the rescue of a man from the icy waters of the Genesee River in Wellsville.
Owen Brewster and Jack Derby were the first to hear the cries for help at around 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12. The two motorsports technology students were working on Derby’s vehicle behind the Freshman Automotive Building on the School of Applied Technology campus when they heard what Brewster initially thought may have been a bird.
“Then we realized it was actually somebody distinctly screaming for help,” Brewster said.
Around this time, heavy equipment: truck and diesel technician students Kameron Mills and David Snyder were eating lunch nearby in Snyder’s vehicle. Suddenly, they were approached by Brewster, who informed them that someone was crying for help.
Snyder then dropped off Mills to accompany Brewster and enlisted the help of electrical construction and maintenance electrician student Alex Tanevski. As Snyder and Tanevski drove to the Zero Energy Home on campus to get word to the University Police about the incident, Mills and Brewster decided to call 911 and jumped the fence between the campus and the river to search for the person in trouble.
Derby, meanwhile, ran to Automotive Trades Assistant Professor Luke McIntosh’s classroom, also in an attempt to get help.
“I told Professor McIntosh, ‘I need to use your phone to call University Police,’” he said.
Derby then joined Mills, Snyder, Brewster, and Tanevski, all of whom had jumped the fence by this time to search for the source of the cry. After searching for about a half an hour, the students and University Police found a man in the Genesee River about a mile and a half away from where they had started, arriving at roughly the same time as other police officials and first responders.
According to a previous article about the incident by The Spectator, Louie Gordnier and his dog, Takota, had been out for a walk when the dog suddenly headed out onto the iced-over river.
“The ice gave way and the beagle plunged into the middle of the river,” the article states. “Gordnier, 64, went out after his dog and successfully pulled him from the water, but the struggle left him partially submerged as well. He worked his way back to the edge of the river and, exhausted and freezing, his phone killed by the water, called out for help.”
After being rescued by Wellsville first responders, Gordnier was Mercy Flighted to Rochester for hypothermia precautions and treatment of minor facial injuries, according to The Spectator, who also noted that the dog was transported to the Wellsville Veterinary Hospital. Both were recovering the night of the incident.
Wellsville Emergency Management Coordinator Chris Martelle was quoted in the article as saying, “We were quite surprised they (the students) were able to hear him. If those college students weren’t out there, it could have been a different scenario.”
As for the students themselves, they remain humble about their role in the rescue and are just glad they were able to hear Gordnier’s cries and get him the assistance that he needed.
“It feels good to have helped get him out of there,” Tanevski said.