Lathrop Manteca firefighters rescued a 53 year-old Manteca man Monday afternoon who ended up floating two miles downstream on the swollen San Joaquin River while standing on a fallen tree.
Myron Ruddy, who lives at the Turtle Beach Mobile Home Park on the far western end of Woodward Avenue, was walking with a sack lunch looking for a spot to eat it when he spotted the tree and stepped on it.
The Lathrop-Manteca Water Rescue crew was in the 40 degree water within six minutes of receiving the 911 call of a man in the center of the river calling for help shortly before 4 p.m. He was seen standing on the log and branches that was estimated to be 18 to 24 inches in diameter and about 15 to 20 feet long.
Ruddy had floated down the river to near the River Islands bridge before the rescue boat located him. Divers shouted at him to stand still. They didn’t any movement that might cause the log to roll and drop him into the fast moving frigid water where the river bottom was clogged with debris from the winter runoff.
Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neeley monitored the incident from overhead at the River Islands bridge to the north and Battalion Chief Larry Madoski took a similar location from the south side levee where they could jointly coordinate their command.
Once pulling him into the fire boat, firefighters put a blanket over his shoulders and returned Ruddy to the boat ramp near the Mossdale Bridge where deputies and firefighters could interview him and determine if he was alright and learn how he got into the precarious situation.
Ruddy said he was bored when he went down to the river’s edge with a brown bag lunch of a sandwich, orange and protein bar. Sitting along the shore he saw the good sized log came around the corner, he said, and he just stepped onto it, not realizing just how fast it would take him out to the middle of the San Joaquin River.
Someone saw his plight and made a 911 call of a man in the river which went directly to the fire department dispatch center. About 10 fire personnel responded, including three on the rescue boat, a medic, spotters along the river bank, an ambulance and two chief officers from the fire department.
“I was hoping to get to shore without getting wet,” Ruddy said. “It turned into a real big deal.”
Standing rolling a cigarette paper, Ruddy told reporters from the Bulletin and the Tracy Press that he was excited about having his picture and story in the newspapers – a first for him. He has worked his entire life in construction and as a handyman.
“They yelled at me that they could pull me to shore with a rope. I was having fun and they threw a life preserver at me but it fell short. I live for life experiences like this,” he said.
Lathrop Fire Chief Gene Neeley said the man could have suffered fatally from hypothermia in five to 10 minutes had he fallen into the water.
The water rescue crew in the boat included Mat Mellione, Justin Hayes and Josh Capper. Battalion Chief Madoski noted that the Lathrop Department has 12 to 24 water rescue calls each year on the San Joaquin River.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email email@example.com.