A high school senior out kayaking for the first time rescued a man who fell into the Chicago River near the Loop.
Emmanuel Gonzalez, 17, was with his girlfriend when he spotted a man floating face down in the water around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at Clark Street and Wacker Drive. Gonzalez said he quickly paddled toward to the man and pulled him out of the water and held his head above the water until police divers arrived.
"My first instinct was to get his face out of the water," said Gonzalez, who is graduating tonight from Kennedy High School on the Southwest Side.
"I thought about putting him on the kayak, but his body was really heavy," Gonzalez said. "So I grabbed him by the back of the head, with his shirt, and put my other hand under his chin to hold his head up."
Gonzalez said he kept the man's head above water for two or three minutes before a police boat got to the scene.
“One of the police officers jumped in and they got him out," Gonzalez said. “They told me that thanks to me I kind of saved him. I am happy about that."
The man, who was wearing a business suit, was sitting on the Riverwalk reading, with his glasses on, near the Clark Street bridge when witnesses said he appeared to "roll into" the water, according to Police Marine Unit Sgt. Karl Hajdu.
"Preliminarily, we believe he may have suffered some type of medical emergency that caused him to fall into the water," Hajdu said.
The man was moved to a police boat where CPR was done and paramedics then took him to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in critical condition.
Hospital spokeswoman Lindsay Fox said the man's condition remained critical Thursday evening.
He is being treated in the hospital's intensive care unit, Hajdu said.
"If the man survives, the kayaker probably saved his life by holding him up," Hajdu said. "He did a fabulous job."
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