The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 26, 2013

Sunbury woman describes harrowing river rescue

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — Lydia Ross’ afternoon run at the Shikellamy State Park Marina Sunday ended in near disaster after she jumped into the Susquehanna River to rescue a young girl who had slipped into the water.

“I thought we were both going to die,” the 33-year-old Sunbury woman said of the difficulty she faced trying to get out of the choppy water with a 7-year-old in her arms.

After several harrowing minutes, a male passerby responded to Ross’ screams and was able to help both out of the water.

The afternoon began with Ross, the mother of five, taking her usual run around the marina shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday.

“I saw a little girl on the other side of the fence near the (former) restaurant and thought I heard her say, ‘Help me,’” Ross said.

Looking over the fence and into the water, she saw that the little girl clad in a bathing suit was looking at another child, also wearing a bathing suit and struggling to get out of the water.

“She couldn’t get a grip and the waves were pulling her into the water,” Ross said, adding, “I didn’t even think. I reached in to pull her out and my foot slipped on the slippery concrete and went under water with her.”

Once in the river, Ross said she grabbed the child by the torso and tried to climb out of the water, to no avail due to the choppy waves and slippery concrete.

“I didn’t think it was a dangerous situation for me, but it’s very deceptive,” she said.

Ross was able to grab a nearby pipe and hold on as she yelled for help. Her screams attracted the attention of the other little girl, who approached to help but was pulled away from the water’s edge and to safety by a female passerby.

At this point, a terrified Ross said she was certain she and the child in her arms were going to be pulled under water.

“I was in panic mode,” she said. “It felt like we were being pulled down and under the water. It was a horrifying experience.”

A man responded to her screams and rescued both of them, pulling them one by one from the water.

The whole situation lasted a few minutes, but Ross said it felt much longer.

After the rescue, Ross said she learned the child’s mother was sitting at a picnic table with a friend.

Upset with the woman who apparently had no idea about the danger her child had been in, Ross said she left the area and went to speak to Interim Park Manager Phillip Schmidt about the incident.

A certified first responder, Schmidt checked on both of the young girls and determined they were fine. He recommended the mother take them for an evaluation, but she declined.

“I can’t thank (Ross) enough. As a park visitor, she went above and beyond,” he said.

Park officials will evaluate the area to determine if other safety measures need to be added to ensure visitors’ safety, but Schmidt points out that there is no swimming allowed in the area.

“It’s for mooring boats, not swimming and it’s posted,” he said.

On Monday, Ross was recovering from the experience that left her lower legs bruised and bloody and grateful to the unidentified stranger that responded to her calls for help.

“I have no idea who that man was, but I thank him from the bottom of my heart,” she said.