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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Members of the Fort Wayne Fire Department's Water Rescue team pulled a man out of the Saint Marys River on Monday after witnesses called 911.

Man pulled from Fort Wayne river dies

A man who who was pulled Monday afternoon from the St. Marys River was pronounced dead late Monday night, according to a written statement from the Allen County Coroner's Office.

He was 52 years old, officials said, noting that his identity will be released after next of kin is notified.

"Our medics performed many advanced life-support procedures on him," said Mike Gillespie, a spokesman for the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority. "He was in cardiac arrest when he was pulled from the river."

At 3:05 p.m., witnesses called 911 to report that a man was in the river by the Main Street Bridge, near Rockhill Street, and the Fort Wayne Fire Department's dive team was dispatched.

With the help of people at the scene, rescuers blocked out a section of the river where the man was believed to be located, said Stacey Fleming, a fire department spokeswoman.

"We could have been out here all day if not for the help of witnesses," Fleming said.

The first diver to go in the water searched unsuccessfully near the bank, and as he returned to shore, a second diver entered the river. The muddy water and slight current complicated the search.

The man was eventually found and pulled from the river at 3:26 p.m. He had gone into the water on the upstream side of the bridge, according to witnesses, and he was rescued on the downstream side. Emergency crews loaded him onto a stretcher and carried him up the riverbank to a grassy area.

Medics started performing CPR on the man who had no pulse and was not breathing. A white sheet was used to hide him from public view. A short time later, he was moved into an ambulance.

Medics worked to revive him for 12 minutes at the scene and then left for the hospital. It was not until 16 minutes after he was taken from the water that he once again had a pulse, Gillespie said.

"Obviously, the longer you're under, the worse it is," he said, noting that a person's brain cells begin to die after 6 minutes without oxygen. "Younger people tend to do a little bit better, especially in cold water."

During the rescue, groups of people stood along the river, watching divers search for the man. People leaned over the side of the bridge to get a better look as he was pulled to the surface.

Kevin Johnson, who was on the bridge, said he was friends with the man rescued from the river. Johnson said the man had been sitting with him and decided he wanted to go for a swim.