A water rescue wasn't something Sgt. Ben Murphy was primed for when he arrived for a meeting at the Los Rios Community College District's police headquarters on Ethan Way shorty after 11 a.m. Friday
But as he walked through the parking lot, he heard yelling and shouting coming from an area behind dumpsters on an adjoining property. As he went to investigate, Murphy heard someone yelling "help" over and over. Looking through an ivy-covered fence, he spotted a man standing in the middle of a swollen Chicken Ranch Slough, a drainage channel that runs through the area.
"There's a steep embankment on both sides, about 10 or 12 feet," Murphy said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon.
The man seemed to be disoriented and in a panic, as he kept losing his footing, Murphy said. He began talking to the man, urging him to move toward the embankment, but the current was too swift.
"I know from my training not to become a victim myself," said Murphy. He spotted a bridge a few yards downstream near Hurley Way where he figured he could enter the water and grab the man while holding onto a bridge support.
As he headed for the bridge, Murphy radioed colleagues for help while urging the man to keep his head above water. Murphy also spotted a pedestrian on the bridge and asked him to keep watch as Murphy went into the water and to alert rescuers if both he and the victim were swept away.
When he stepped into the channel, Murphy said, he immediately went underwater. He discovered the channel was filled with weeds and debris, making it difficult to get his footing, but he was able to grab the man and the bridge support, and the two clung together as they awaited rescuers.
The man was cold and still in a panic. Murphy said he assured the man help was on the way and talked to him in an effort to calm him. Murphy said the man told him his name was Byron and that he had a 13-year-old daughter. It was unclear, he said, how Byron came to be in the channel.
The pedestrian flagged down fire personnel along with other Los Rios officers responding to the rescue call.
Firefighters sent down a life jacket for Byron and lowered a ladder and a rope. Murphy and Byron were then able to make it to the edge of the channel, where firefighters helped them up the ladder.
Murphy said Byron was transported to an area hospital. He estimated the entire incident lasted about 15 minutes.
Murphy said he serves the Los Rios Police Department districtwide, but typically begins and ends his workday at Folsom Lake College.
On Friday, he happened to be in the right place at the right time.
"I was glad to help," he said.