Firefighter credited with saving man thrown from Back River Bridge speaks

Firefighter Jeremy Veale
Firefighter Jeremy Veale(source: WTOC)
Updated: Jan. 19, 2020 at 11:29 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -The firefighter that rescued a driver from the Savannah River on Friday night says that was his first “real” rescue.

Jeremy Veale is an advanced firefighter for Savannah Fire. He says when they arrived on the scene, he was told to rappel down to the man who was clinging onto a pole. Veale says they go through more than 120 hours of training for rope rescues. He says the man was alert the whole time during the roughly 16-minute rescue.

“I’m reassuring to the gentleman that I’m coming for him," said Veale. "I let him know that it was just a few more feet and to just hang on. I made contact with him and got about waist-deep in the water and then I grabbed onto him.”

Veale says it takes about a minute to put on the harness used in the rescue. He then used webbing to get a better hold of the man while they waited for a boat to come get him.

“This type of thing is probably a once in a career type thing.”

In about 16 minutes the man was brought back to solid ground. During the whole operation, he was alert and listening to commands. Veale says the rescue went exactly as they had hoped it would.

"I'm glad I had the opportunity to do it."

The bridge is very narrow and Veale says unless it's for an emergency he advises people to never pull over on it.

“You just have to be aware of your surroundings and other people have to drive safe to. That’s obviously the leading factor of what made this happen in the first place.”

One witness said she saw the man fly over the Back River Bridge and into the water when another driver hit his car while he was looking under the hood.

“The car in front of me swerved, almost overcorrected, into the car parked on the side of the road and the man checking under his hood got thrown into the river,” said Kristina Howey.

Georgia State Patrol says the woman who hit his car is facing several citations including distracted driving and failure to maintain lane. The man who fell into the river has only minor injuries.

There was a passenger in the victim’s car, but Georgia State Patrol says she wasn’t hurt.

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