Mayor Duggan honors Detroit first responders who saved pregnant woman

Posted at 5:13 PM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-09 17:13:09-04

When first responders saw a pregnant woman about to drown in the frigid waters of the Detroit River, they didn’t hesitate. Two police officers and a medic risked their lives when they jumped in the river to save her.  Their ordeal is leading to change.

Today Detroit Fire Commissioner Eric Jones announced he has ordered flotation devices for all river-based companies to make such rescues safer.  The announcement was made during a press conference in Mayor Mike Duggan’s Office. The mayor gathered the woman saved, with all who helped save her.

“We have two officers and a medic jump in risking their own lives, but that is the kind of first responders we have in the city,” said Duggan.

Fisherman Jeff Calloway says he was about to leave for home the night it happened. He decided to check on the 34-year-old pregnant woman he saw fishing alone in the closed park before going.  He found she had fallen in the river.  He ran until he found someone with a phone.

“I said call 911, then I took a branch and tried to hold you to the wall,” Calloway told Ethel Woodger during the press conference.

When police arrived they found him laying on the ground, holding onto that branch and his coat.  Ethel was in the water, desperately biting the coat for her life.

“She was biting on to it because her hands couldn’t hold on to the branch,” said Officer Brian Gadwell. “She was going under. I had to jump in. It was cold.”

“I can vouch for that,” Ethel commented on the temperature of the water.

“I was thinking I was going to die,” said Gadwell. 

Officer Gadwell’s partner Steven Rauser and Medic Chris Ward then jumped in to help save them both.

Ethel Woodger said she fell in because she lost her balance while trying to catch a big fish.  The mom now to three children is grateful the men were there to save her and her baby, who was born right after the rescue.