La Crosse,WI (WXOW) A La Crosse deputy sheriff is receiving state wide recognition for putting his life on the line. Deputy John Williams received the Wisconsin Sheriff's and Deputy Sheriff's heroism award for rescuing a drowning man from the Mississippi river. Officer Williams described what happened that night back in June and how lucky both he and the man he rescued are to have made it to shore.
Deputy John Williams respects the power of the Mississippi river. Its strong current almost claimed his life. "I was absolutely exhausted when they pulled me into the boat."
John had just checked on duty on the night of June 25th when an emergency tone blasted from his radio. A man was struggling to stay afloat in the river near Riverside Park. John was stationed just a few blocks away. When John and two other officers arrived, the man; now in the middle of the river; could barely keep his head above water. Without hesitating John ditched his gun belt for his life jacket and jumped into the water and the darkness.
"Once I got in the water I couldn't see him." John swam as hard as he could following the directions of the other officers on shore. But the same current that was pulling the man down stream was also pulling John away from the man. John ended up clinging to the pillars of a bridge.
"I didn't really see him at first until he popped up like a bobber." That's when john reached out and grabbed him. But this river rescue wasn't over yet. The life jacket John was wearing was designed to keep one person afloat;not two. "We struggled a couple of minutes to keep him afloat."
The minutes it took for a private boater and the fire department to help both men to safety felt like hours. "There are two things you think of; your family and your training. You're not going to lose the fight." They were exhausted and thankful to be alive.
John says if he had to he'd do it all again. Like a lot of other people who've put their lives on the line John doesn't consider himself a hero. "I just felt like I was in the right spot at the right time." For deputy John Williams a river rescue is just a part of the job.
Deputy Williams nominated the private boater who came to his rescue for a local citizen award. That ceremony will be held later this year.