Source: Sun Sentinel | Author: Briana Erickson | Published: June 7, 2016

During his second week of work, Oscar Soden didn’t expect to save a life.

As a new mate aboard a pink Fort Lauderdale Water Shuttle, the 19-year-old’s job is to help ferry people down the New River.

But on Tuesday afternoon, he played a crucial role in rescuing a man in the water, firefighters say. Soden jumped into the river’s rough waters, pulling the man to safety. Firefighters hailed Soden a hero.

“It’s not every day a citizen jumps through the river,” said Gregory May, Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue spokesman. “Most people wouldn’t have done what he did — he is the true definition of a citizen hero.”

The events began Tuesday afternoon, when the water shuttle turned the corner toward the Riverfront Plaza and Soden saw the man in the water. Another vessel, a city Water Trolley with about 20 people in it, had thrown the man an orange flotation device, May said.

But the man in the water wasn’t grabbing it. His head kept bobbing under the water. “It appeared he was trying to submerge himself, but Oscar grabbed him and kept his head above water,” May said.

Soden tucked the buoy under the man’s arm and dragged him through the water and back to the shuttle, where a couple visiting from France were on board.

“The guy was a big dude,” said Soden, who is 5 feet 11 inches tall. He said the man was at least 6-foot-2 and several pounds heavier than him.

“It was kind of an impulse to jump,” Soden said. “I wasn’t really thinking, I was just swimming.”

The call about a possible suicide attempt came in at 12:39, with someone reportedly jumping from the Andrews Avenue bridge, May said.

May and the fire chief were at The DownTowner, a restaurant right by the water. They just had to walk outside to see the scene.

Soon after, May assisted Soden in bringing the man to safety. About 20 bystanders were looking on, and 10 firefighters also were on land standing by.

An ambulance took the man to a hospital, where he was in stable condition, May said.

The patient, in his mid-30s, was shirtless and without any form of identification. “He didn’t speak, didn’t talk, didn’t want help,” May said.

May said there has been a spate of people jumping off bridges lately; another incident had happened in Fort Lauderdale on Monday.

Tuesday’s incident might have turned out differently if it hadn’t been for Soden, May said. He plans to take him to the next commission meeting for recognition.