Three Manatee County firefighters helped save a man’s life this weekend.
And they weren’t even on the clock.
While on vacation on the Withlacoochee River in Marion County Friday afternoon, the firefighters heard faint cries for help coming from a man who had been stuck in mud for several hours.
“We kept hearing this faint call for help and about 15 yards in the swamp we saw a head and arms,” Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Leigh Hollins said.
Hollins was on the trip with fellow Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Sam Collier and Lt. Jim Grote of Southern Manatee Fire Rescue along with their wives.
Upon seeing the man they jumped into action.
They threw a rope to the 75-year-old man, who was covered up to his neck in mud, and told him to tie it around himself.
They then pulled him out of the swamp and onto a boat.
He was evaluated, given water and towels to wrap around himself.
“He had cuts up and down his legs. He told us he lives in the woods and he is homeless,” Hollins said. “He was really thankful we heard him.”
The firefighters called 911 and the local fire department took the man to an area hospital where he was treated. No word on his condition has been released.
Hollins’ wife, Janet Hollins, said had a nearby airboat passed their boat a little sooner, they might not have heard the man’s cries for help.
“We were fortunate enough to hear him,” she said, adding she is proud of her husband and his friends in their efforts to save the man’s life. “They’re veteran firefighters -- that’s what they do.”
Grote, who like Hollins was humble about the rescue, said they were simply lucky that they heard his cries.
“It was one of those things; honestly, we were at the right place at the right time,” said Grote. “I’m glad we could help the guy. I don’t know if anyone else would have heard him.”
This wasn’t the only time the three helped someone on the trip.
Later that night they went to a local restaurant where a woman in the kitchen was having a medical issue. They were able to evaluate her as they waited for emergency personnel to arrive.
“We help out people whenever we can,” Hollins said. “The heroes to me are those guys fighting for our country.”
Grote echoed that same message.
“All of our good guys are overseas.”
Paradise Afshar, Herald reporter, can be contacted at (941) 748-0411, ext. 7024.