SPOKANE, Wash. – Three Gonzaga University Army ROTC program students out for a 5:30 a.m. warm-up run Sept. 30 are credited with saving a man’s life. Alerted by another runner that a man beneath the Centennial Trail’s Kardong Bridge was calling for help, Gonzaga’s Christopher Smith and Thomas Veley, along with Trevor Block of Whitworth University jumped into action.
The students, all members of the Bulldog Battalion, found the middle-age man half-submerged in the chilly waters of the Spokane River, clinging to the cement base of the bridge. Smith assessed the situation, then monkey-barred his way down 25-feet to the support and pulled the man to safety. Smith removed the man’s wet clothes and began massaging his arms to increase circulation and keep him warm. Veley and Block shared their jackets, called for help, and guided rescue crews to the scene.
In the estimated 15 minutes before authorities arrived, Smith spoke with the man and discovered he was depressed and tried to take his own life.
“It was a call for help,” Smith said. “Hopefully, seeing all the people that came together to help him gave him a new perspective and outlook on a second chance in life.”
Smith completed the rescue in time to make 6 a.m. physical training and he was in class at 8 a.m. By the time Smith’s classes were over at 11 a.m., media were lined up to talk with him. Civilian and military media around the nation reported accounts of the rescue.
The life-saving intervention is the second this year for Gonzaga students. In May, two female Gonzaga students saved a California man from drowning in white water on the Havasu Creek in Arizona.