Heroism: Local man saved from drowning

BELLAIRE A local man is alive today thanks to the heroic efforts of three local men and the innumerable amount of luck that brought them all together at just the right time.

Earl Reiner, 31, was fishing off the dock at the Bellaire Marina on Sunday afternoon. Just after casting his line into the swiftly-flowing Ohio, Reiner’s arm curled up and he began suffering from a seizure.

Reiner, unable to control his body, tumbled helplessly into the river and began to sink under.

Tommy Jenkins, 64, heard the splash and quickly rushed to Reiner’s aid.

But Reiner wasn’t capable of assisting in his own rescue and it was all Jenkins could do to try his best to keep Reiner above water as long as he could.

With the rain besieging the Ohio Valley recently, the river’s current was fast and unforgiving, making an already daunting task for Jenkins neigh impossible.

He held on as long as he could and, while trying to keep Reiner above the surface, scanned the water in hopes that someone, anyone would be able to assist.

Earlier that afternoon, John Blackmore and Terry Muldrew put out from Powhatan Point in a Ranger bass boat, competing in a local fishing tournament.

With their well starting to fill with the day’s haul, the pair decided to travel northward to try to catch a few more fish before heading back for the weigh-in.

“We thought we were in good shape, probably first or second place, so we were basically just goofing off, trying to find that one big fish,” Blackmore recalled. “We came up to Bellaire to this one spot we hadn’t planned on coming that far north.”

It was then the pair noticed a man yelling for help from the docks and what looked like a man slowly slipping through his grasp.

Taking a minute to register the situation, Muldrew began to pilot to bass boat as close to the situation as possible, needing to angle his way in around a sandbar.

Blackmore got on his stomach at the bow of the boat, and attempted to assist in the retrieval. Eventually he and Muldrew, relieving an exhausted Jenkins, managed to get Reiner on the deck of the boat.

What they soon discovered was Reiner wasn’t breathing and something needed to be done quickly.

“When he came up, he was all blue and his breath he was blowing bubbles and gurgling,” Blackmore said.

Blackmore, recalling his cpr training, began to administer chest compressions while Muldrew hollered for a nearby couple to call 911.

After two compressions failed to yield results, Blackmore opted to use considerably more force in earnest, trying to expel the water from Reiner’s lungs.

“I have a third (compression) real hard and the fourth was really hard and it blew water and stuff out of his mouth. There was blood in the corner of his mouth and he was able to take a deep breath.”

Reiner began to struggle, returning to consciousness and trying to come to terms with what was going on.

Around this time, an emergency squad from the Neffs Fire Department and Bellaire Police Chief Mike Kovalyk arrived on scene.

With their assistance, Reiner was able to be transferred from the boat to the dock. He was placed in a wheelchair and was given oxygen. Reiner was then transported to a local medical facility.

Jenkins too needed a treatment of oxygen, exhausting himself keeping Reiner afloat against the current.

With the speed of the flowing water, Jenkins likely had only seconds to react before Reiner would have been sucked under completely and whisked away down river.

What if he had been delayed in reacting to the splash?

What if Blackmore and Muldrew not decided to travel two towns north of their launch ramp in search of that one last fish?

What if Muldrew hadn’t performed the nautical equivalent of a one-timer?

Given the current, the trolling motor wasn’t going to provide sufficient power to get the boat to Reiner in time.

“As far as we were moving over to them, Terry dropped it right in there,” Blackmore said. “He threw it in reverse as we got close and I thought ‘We’re going to hit this guy.’

“But he stopped on a dime. If he hadn’t, it would have taken us longer to put against the dock and scoot down at just the right angle.”

Blackmore compared it to using a clutch in a manual transmission car while sitting on a hill. Muldrew had to apply just the right amount of throttle pressure and hold is steady.

Everything that had to happen, from the moment Reiner hit the water until he was safely carried away in the squad car, did and at just the right time.

“Had those guys not have been there, he’d have been a goner,” Kovalyk said.

Reiner was OK; Jenkins too. After getting settled, Blackmore and Muldrew headed south back to Powhatan Point to turn in their catch.

T hey had plenty of time to finish and wound up coming in second and fourth place.

Even if this would have transpired near the end of the tournament, would have been no regrets on their part.

“Someone’s life was on the line and, in comparison, it’s just a stupid fishing tournament,” Blackmore said, adding that, given the circumstances, he thinks the tournament director would have gaven them a pass for being late.

Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleaderonline.com