Home Run Saves Man's Life

September 19, 2013

Bart Griffiths thought he was just retrieving a home run ball in a Logan Recreation League softball game.

Little did the Logan resident know it would be the most important home run ball he would track down in his life. That's because Griffiths happened upon an older man lying face down in an irrigation canal just west of the Willow Park Sports Complex and, according to paramedics, ended up saving that man's life.

Griffiths was retrieving a ball hit by Grant Calverley just beyond the fence in left-center field in a Wednesday Men's D League playoff game when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. About 15 yards west of the fence on the northwest field is an irrigation canal, which is situated just east of the railroad tracks.

"I picked up the ball, and I was flipping it and just walking back to bring it in and, I mean, I don't know what made me glance over there," said Griffiths in a telephone interview three days after the ordeal. "I mean, I was on the other side of the parking lot."

Griffiths, who is largely responsible for running the Logan Rec softball leagues, certainly discovered more than he bargained for when he approached the canal, which is bordered by weeds and other heavy vegetation.

"I was picking it up and walking back in, and I glanced over toward the swamp and I thought I saw something gray," Griffiths said. "What it was, was the tire of the wheelchair sticking up. And I thought, ‘Why is somebody dumping something in the swamp?' ... And when I went over to investigate and I saw the wheelchair, I thought, ‘Oh my heck, somebody dumped a wheelchair.' And then I thought, ‘Why would somebody do that?' But then I went to further investigate and then I saw this body face down in the water, just from the waist down."

In turns out a 62-year-old man — at least that's the age he gave to Griffiths and paramedics — had crashed his Jazzy wheelchair into the canal. The bank of the canal is rather steep, approximately 5 feet deep, and when the man hit the edge he went flying face first off the wheelchair, Griffiths surmised. The water is only about 6 inches deep at the bottom, but that was more than enough to put the man's life in peril.

When Griffiths saw there was a body in the canal, his initial thought was the man was dead.

"When I lifted him up I said, ‘Can you hear me?' And he said, ‘I'm dying,'" Griffiths said. "And I thought to myself, oh, that's a good sign (he's talking)."

Luckily for Griffiths, he had his cell phone on him and was able to dial 911. Griffiths then flagged down a woman who was pushing a stroller down a nearby asphalt trail. Because there is so much vegetation in the canal, Griffiths said he and the man were concealed rather well.

Griffiths then waited for the ambulance to arrive and helped the paramedics strap the man on a backboard before he was transported to a local hospital. According to Logan police, the man was treated for his injuries, released and then issued a citation for intoxication.

Griffiths said the paramedics told him the man had probably been in the canal for 15-30 minutes and was exhibiting signs of hypothermia. The paramedics also told Griffiths the man had been using his elbows to lift himself up enough to breathe, but was very weak by the time Griffiths found him.

"It's not in my job description to retrieve balls," Griffiths said. "I'm supposed to be there supervising the fields, so I just do it for the exercise, but if Grant wouldn't have hit his (homer), I don't think I would have been back out there since Wednesday was the last day we had games that week. So even right now, that guy might have still been in there."

Simply put, Griffiths' timely and heroic actions more than likely saved this man's life. Nevertheless, Griffiths doesn't think of himself as a hero.

"I don't. I feel like I did what 99.9 percent of everybody would do," he said. "I was just in the right spot at the right time, I guess."

Source: The Herald Journal , by Jason Turner

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