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Boaters in Christmas parade rescue drowning man

PORTLAND, OR – Boaters participating in a Christmas parade in Portland, Oregon helped rescue a drowning man Tuesday night.

He was spotted in the Willamette river around 7:30 p.m.

Witnesses say he was found just in the nick of time, since the man was starting to go under.

Every December, the Christmas ships twinkle on the waters of the Columbia and Willamette rivers.

It’s a 65-year-old tradition.

“People that do Christmas ships love boating and this gives us an excuse to be on our boat," said boater Rob Steffeck.

Steffeck was leading the parade Wednesday night, when he noticed something in the water under the Fremont Bridge that got his attention.

“We saw what we thought was a log and the closer we got to it there was some movement," said Steffeck.

That movement was a person drowning -- Steffeck said the person’s face was barely above the surface when he heard a cry for help.

“It was a very weak sounding help because the person was hypothermic, I’m sure, because the water temperature is 42 degrees,” said Steffeck.

Steffeck positioned his boat so he and the people on board could get the victim out of the water.

“As we got to the person, he sunk under the water and was probably under for 30 seconds before we were able to fish him out," said Steffeck.

Steffeck said they did what they could to warm up the victim until Portland fire and rescue arrived.

“It’s just insane I mean think about that -- I mean the guy was already underwater completely, so he wasn’t coming up, he wasn’t swimming, he wasn’t thrashing, he was done. so another 10, 20 seconds it would’ve been all over," said Chris O’Neill, witness to the rescue.

O’neill watched some of the rescue. He, like Steffeck, call it a miracle.

“He had an angel looking over him," said O’Neill.

“Christmas miracle kinda thing. You know, I mean it’s that season and we’re trying to bring joy to the people in portland and that kinda goes right along with it.,” said Steffeck.

No further details about why the man was in the water -- or his condition -- have been released.