A Utah man was honored Thursday for his role in saving a man from drowning in the Snake River on a frigid January day.
Nathan Fillmore was declared an "East Idaho Real Hero" by the American Red Cross for his actions on the afternoon of Jan. 3. The Idaho Falls Fire Department and Bonneville County Sheriff's Office were also recognized for saving the man.
Fillmore was at the Snake River in Idaho Falls working with a film crew on a commercial when ambulances, police cars and fire engines pulled up. It was around 20 degrees and ice covered most of the river.
"I remember thinking while we were shooting that if somebody fell in there it would be very bad," Fillmore recalls.
Officials say a man taking photos slipped on the side of the river and fell into the freezing water. He was able to grab onto rocks along the banks but most of his body was submerged.
"He called 911 from his cell phone and tried to explain where he was located but we had very limited information," Bonneville County Sheriff Deputy Christopher Rix tells EastIdahoNews.com.
Deputies and firefighters began walking along the side of the river looking for the man. Fillmore joined in the search as minutes ticked away.
"Suddenly, right out of the corner of my eye, I saw his head poking up out of the water and he was looking directly at me," Fillmore says. "I could tell he was almost out of energy because he was trying to wave his beanie at me but he couldn't speak. He was just staring."
Fillmore yelled to emergency responders that he had found the man and began recording the rescue operation with his cell phone.
"He was probably in the water almost 12-13 minutes," Idaho Falls Fire Chief Cody Anderson says. "He was about done. Had he been there five minutes, we might have lost him."
Crews pulled the man from the freezing water and helped him into a warm ambulance. He was so weak that he couldn't walk on his own but was treated on the scene and released.
Responders say had Fillmore spotted him a few minutes later, the man likely could have died.
"Were he to have let go of the cliff face, he very possibly could have gotten sucked under the ice and trapped under an ice shelf for quite some time," Rix says. "It was very close to being a much worse situation."
Deputies and firefighters say they are humbled to receive the American Red Cross award, but acknowledge they were just doing their jobs and shouldn't be called heroes.
Fillmore is thankful he was in the right place at the right time and is glad he could help.
"I'm more inclined (to think) that there was some divine intervention that helped me," Fillmore says. "The real heroes are the dudes that are trained and passionate about saving lives. They pulled him out of the river and it made me feel good to participate in some small way."
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