A 19-year-old college student is being hailed as a hero after he dived into a lake to save a drowning boater last Monday. According to WVLT, Daniel Baldwin was at Norris Lake in Tazewell, Tennessee to fish for smallmouth bass and to film for his YouTube channel, Fishing with Leinad.
He did not expect that his trip would include saving someone’s life.
“I could win the Bass Master Classic, I could have the biggest bass boat out there. But you know that one time I was on the bank and not on a boat, I’m glad I was there because I saved a life that day. That was the best day I’ve ever had fishing because of what happened in the end,” Baldwin said.
While he was fishing, Baldwin saw an elderly man fall off a nearby boat. The water was just about 10 feet deep, but he could tell from the man’s flailing that he did not know how to swim. Baldwin said what happened next was instinctual—and dangerous. Throwing down his rod, Baldwin jumped into the water and attempted to drag the man to shore. That was easier said than done, however, and the angler struggled with the drowning man for several minutes before the two were able to reach land.
You can see the rescue below:
As many swimmers know, a person who is in danger of drowning can be very dangerous to their rescuers. In that moment, a drowning victim’s overriding imperative is to get air, and they will attempt to drag anything—even another person—under to buoy themselves up. This is the reason why many experts advise against swimming to an active drowning victim unless it is the absolute last resort.
“I actually had to push off of him, not trying to hurt him or make his situation worse, but once I was in the water, I had to figure out how to get a different angle to get ahold of him,” Baldwin told Bassmaster. “I was trying to keep myself calm. I was trying to think, ‘Remember how to swim, remember how to swim. Alright, grab ahold of him. Alright, let’s try to get to the bank.’ Finally my feet started to feel something. ‘OK, there’s a rock. Try to get another rock with my left foot. OK, got two feet.”
Baldwin said that the other man pulled him under several times, which you can see during the video that was recorded by his GoPro camera.
“No matter what, I am truly thankful, and both of us are extremely blessed to have been able to both survive, as I took on the risk of also drowning to save a total stranger’s life,” he wrote on YouTube.
Since then Baldwin has received a lot of interest from local media and a fair bit of admiration from his fellow anglers. Not everyone was impressed, and some who saw the YouTube video even accused the angler of staging the whole rescue for personal gain. Baldwin responded by saying that while the water may look shallow, they were actually right over a much deeper 25-foot dropoff.
According to the University of Tennessee student, the greatest lesson he learned next week was one about safety.
“It shows to me exactly how important it is how to always have a life jacket,” Baldwin added. “Don’t take life for granted. That’s all that matters.”