River rescue Good Samaritans speak about ordeal

August 4, 2009 3:37:26 PM PDT
Two men, one of them disabled, were pulled from the murky waters of the Delaware River Monday night. One has been released from hospital. It was a very bad situation but it could have been a lot worse."I didn't think I was going to make it."

It was only the second time retired Philadelphia County Sheriff Officer, Art Prout, of Trevose, had his newly purchase 15-foot popcraft in the water.

At around 8:30 p.m., after several hours of engine trouble it sank in the murky Delaware near the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.

"The boat was sitting and the water is coming in and the weight was hitting the back and it was just starting to rise, then it went straight up in the air and then straight down."

Art and his passenger, Mike McMullen of Bridesburg, were tossed into the river and separated. It was dark, they had no life-vests and they we're dodging logs and other debris.

"I kept calling my buddy Mike, he answered for awhile, and then he didn't. At that point I thought he drowned."

He might have, but for a trio of friends on their boat who heard the Coast Guard alert and headed to the bridge area to aide in the search.

"There were a lot of logs and stuff floating in the water so it was really hard to see. So we saw what looked like it could be a person," said Chris Ferraro of Croydon, Pa.

It was Mike McMullen desperately holding on to a gas can to stay afloat.

"He was screaming 'help, help' we went right up to him. He told us that he was disabled so we had no choice but to jump in the water and try to help him. He didn't have a life vest or anything," said Rob Frumin of Hamilton Township, New Jersey.

As luck would have it Jen Gilfey, of Lawrenceville is a certified lifeguard and put her training to work making her first save in the dark waters of the Delaware.

Jen and Rob struggled to get Mike McMullen over to the boat. They put life preservers on and under him.

"I told him to lean his head back and I leaned my hand back too so he could keep his head above eater and I swam us back toward the boat," said Jen.

Mike was too heavy for the trio to lift into their boat so they kept him afloat until officials arrived. Art was picked out of the water by a fire boat.

Mike remains in the hospital Tuesday night but both men say they are thankful to their rescuers.