Jamestown police officer saves drowning man in Narragansett Bay

Officer Nathaniel Schaffer (WJAR)

A Jamestown police patrolman is being praised for risking his life to save a man drowning Narragansett Bay.

The 911 call came in around 12:50 a.m. Thursday. Officer Nathaniel Schaffer was the first at the scene.

"There appeared to be somebody in the water down by the East Ferry docks,” Schaffer said.

The woman reported her friend jumped into the water, but apparently could not, or would not, get out.

"It just became clear that we were going to take some kind of action,” Schaffer said.

The man, who was identified as a 34-year-old from Brighton, became unresponsive. Schaffer and his supervisor, Sgt. Jason Hopkins, jumped into action.

"I just immediately took off my boots, my outer garment and my vest and jumped right in while my sergeant was returning with the floatation device,” Schaffer said.

When the fire department arrived, Schaffer and other first responders realized he would not be able to lift the man up six feet to the deck. The man’s condition worsened.

"He had begun foaming at the mouth because he had taken in so much water in his lungs,” Schaffer said.

The rookie officer, who joined the department last December, had no choice but to swim the man to a dock.

"At that point, the cold had settled in and I needed to get out of the water, too,” Schaffer said.

Jamestown Rescue personnel pulled the man and Schaffer onto the dock. Both were transported to Newport Hospital for treatment. Schaffer was treated for mild hypothermia and was later released from the hospital in good condition.

"I thank God for the opportunity, first of all, that I was able to be there at that time and place when we needed to jump in the water,” Schaffer told NBC 10. “That wasn't even my scheduled shift. I had worked an earlier shift that evening and one of our officers had to call out sick, so I picked up that overtime shift. A couple hours in we got the call. I think God definitely put me there for a reason."

Schaffer said the man made a full recovery, visited him at the station Tuesday and thanked him for saving his life.

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