Trio of Whitehall officers help save man from waters of Big Walnut Creek

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
Whitehall Division of Police officers Charles Stonerock (left), Shane McGee and Joseph White stand Feb. 23 near a bridge spanning the Big Walnut Creek between Fairway Boulevard and Noe Bixby Road. It is where the trio rescued a man from the icy water below in January.

A man whom the Whitehall Division of Police was told possibly had jumped from a bridge on East Main Street was not easy to see when three officers converged on the area shortly after 9 p.m. Jan. 12.

The three officers spread out under the bridge and along the banks of the Big Walnut Creek and found the 35-year-old man. Each took turns at keeping the man’s head supported and out of the below-freezing water amid rocks until Whitehall Division of Fire medics arrived and transported him to a local hospital, where he was admitted and remained several days.

“The actions these three officers took on that freezing cold night exemplify what it is to be a Whitehall police officer,” Deputy Chief Dan Kelso said.

Officers Shane McGee, Charles Stonerock and Joseph White each were recognized Feb. 18 with a lifesaving award and will be further recognized at a police awards banquet at a future date, Kelso said.

On the night of Jan. 12, a man had called police to report another man was going to jump from the bridge on East Main that spans the Big Walnut Creek between Fairway Boulevard and Noe Bixby Road, and an employee at a nearby business told Stonerock a man had jumped from the bridge.

The bridge is close to a camp for homeless people along the creek banks, according to police.

It is not clear whether the man lived at the camp, said police Sgt. Jon Earl.

The man was admitted to the hospital and remained there "a few days after the incident," Earl said.

As of March 3, fire Chief Preston Moore said, he did not know if the man had been released from the hospital or anything about his recovery since the incident.

McGee, 28, was the first to find the man after a brief search Jan. 12.

A four-year veteran who previously worked in Lancaster, McGee joined the Whitehall force last year.

“We all arrived at the bridge at about the same time,” McGee said. “It was dark (and) we didn’t see anyone on the bridge."

“The bridge is higher than you’d think,” probably about 30 to 40 feet, said Stonerock, 31, who has served 11 years in law enforcement and almost three with Whitehall.

The creek wasn’t running high, but it still was treacherous because of the rocks, and at about 18 inches in depth, had enough water to cause drowning, Stonerock said.

“The water wasn’t deep so we could walk into it,” McGee said.

The man was on the east side of the creek bank and just north of the bridge and thus in the jurisdiction of the city of Columbus, McGee said.

The creek is the natural boundary with Columbus on Whitehall's eastern border.

McGee described the man as awake but not speaking or responsive.

“We talked to him as we waited (for medics to arrive),” Stonerock said.

The water was thought to be about 25 degrees, and officers administered lifesaving measures on the man for about five minutes until the medics arrived, Kelso said.

Whitehall medics were dispatched at 9:04 p.m. Jan. 12, Whitehall Division of Fire Chief Preston Moore said.

“We took turns holding (the man’s) head out of the water,” McGee said.

Although McGee and Stonerock said they had participated in lifesaving measures of one kind of another while responding to car accidents, drug overdoses and other calls, White, 30, who has been with Whitehall for one year, said the incident was the first time he had helped to save a life.

“These officers truly empathize with someone in pain and mentally struggling in their life," Kelso said. "(They) were not concerned for their own safety. The only thing that mattered was getting this man help and saving his life, even if it put their own at risk."

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo