Scott Harris, an off-duty firefighter with the Lady’s Island-St. Helena Fire District, was returning to the boat ramp after a family day on the Beaufort River last weekend. Heading toward the Lady’s Island ramp, he drove under the Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge just as he had many other times before. But this trip would be unlike any of the others, as his wife, Stephanie, witnessed a man fall from the bridge.
Stephanie Harris immediately notified her husband who didn’t quite understand what she was saying. It was then that Firefighter Harris noticed someone flailing their arms and gasping for air between the pilings of bridge.
Harris knew that he was the closest person to be able to help so he wheeled his boat around and asked his wife to take the wheel. Scott directed his wife to drive straight through the pilings near where they had last seen the man.
As Stephanie drove through, Scott dove out of the boat in the immediate vicinity of where they believed the man was. Scott reported initially not being able to find the man after he saw him go under. But with a few shallow dives and a sweep of his arms, Scott was able to feel the man underwater.
With a firm grasp, he hauled the man to the surface where Stephanie was returning with the boat. The victim insisted on clinging to the piling which was covered with barnacles as he advised Firefighter Harris that he could not swim. Harris was not at all keen on this idea as he is allergic to shell fish.
Despite scrapes and scratches from the barnacles, both men were thrown a life vest from Stephanie as their oldest daughter maintained control of the boat. Finally in a somewhat safe condition, the Harris’ began to talk the man into their boat. That is when officers with the SCDNR arrived and assisted the man into their boat while Harris gratefully returned to his.
Both boats with all their passengers made their way to the Lady’s Island boat ramp where on duty firefighters, EMS crews, and additional law enforcement officers were present. In all, emergency responders from the Lady’s Island-St. Helena Fire District, City of Beaufort Police Department, Beaufort County EMS, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, and the SC Department of Natural Resources responded. Only the patient was transported to Beaufort Memorial Hospital as Firefighter Harris was treated at the fire station for precautionary measures given his strong allergy to shellfish.