A Sheffield man is being hailed a hero across the Atlantic – after braving a ferocious waterfall in the USA to save a drowning workmate.
Businessman Garry Smith dived into the plunge-pool of an 80ft waterfall in America after his colleague lost his footing, fell into the torrent, and was knocked unconscious.
After swimming to his aid and dragging him to safety, Garry used the lifesaving skills he’d picked up as a volunteer lifeguard in Sheffield to get his friend breathing again.
Now the 59-year-old, a technical director for oil and gas industry supplier Howco with a base on Carbrook Street near Attercliffe, is to be honoured with a bravery award.
Garry told The Star today: “It’s humbling, and not something I would have gone around shouting about because it’s a situation I wouldn’t like anybody to get into.
“But if it alerts people to the importance of learning to swim that’s okay.
“This guy had never learned how to swim, and it’s a key life skill.”
Garry had travelled to the USA to do some work for the American branch of his firm.
He and his American colleague, Suresh Nath, 44, had some free time after an audit and decided to visit the Ithaca Falls in New York state.
Garry, of Walkley Terrace, Walkley, said: “I stopped to take a photo, looked up and my colleague had disappeared.
“I was looking around for him and then I saw him, fully clothed, in the water.
“He had walked towards the waterfall to take a photo along the side of it, stood on a small rock which acted like a ball bearing, lost his footing and went straight over the edge.
“I realised he was drowning and in serious trouble.”
Father-of-three Garry rushed to find something with which to reach Suresh, but he was running out of time.
“He was upside down in the water unconscious, being dragged under,” Garry said. “It didn’t leave me much option but to go in.
“There were some other people nearby so I asked them to call the emergency services, then I took some clothing off and swam out.
“There was no sign of life. He wasn’t in a good state.”
Garry hauled Suresh from the water and performed CPR and chest compressions, getting Suresh breathing just as the emergency services arrived.
He had learned lifesaving skills as he volunteered for a swimming club at Upperthorpe and later Concord leisure centres for a number of years.
Suresh spent three days in hospital but made a full recovery and is now back at work.
The Mayor of Ithaca and the Chief of Police have arranged for Garry to be awarded with a Medal for Bravery at a ceremony in The Leopold hotel tomorrow.
Howco sales and marketing director Tim Birch said: “In a very traumatic situation and knowing the risks involved, Garry’s quick thinking saved the life of his friend and colleague.
“Garry is a valued senior member of the team at Howco and is a very honourable, loyal and selfless employee.
“His noble actions on the day typify the person he is - helping people in any way, under any circumstance, both professionally and personally.”