Hines in right place to rescue drowning man

He may have a broken hand, but that didn't stop Nick Hines from lending it to someone in need of help.

The 28-year-old Vermillion man was instrumental in saving the life of a male who jumped off the Discovery Bridge early Sunday morning.

A Yankton police officer initiated a traffic stop near the intersection of Railroad Street and Broadway Avenue at 12:33 a.m. Sunday after allegedly observing a vehicle engaged in some careless driving. Instead of stopping, the driver of the vehicle continued south on Broadway at speeds that reached approximately 80 mph.

The car stopped in the middle of the Discovery Bridge. The driver — later identified at Joshua Brewer, 22, of Yankton — then got out and jumped over the side of the structure and into the Missouri River.

Hines, along with some family and friends, was on an island upstream from the Discovery Bridge having a bonfire party.

Hearing sirens and seeing police cars on the bridge piqued the curiosity of the revelers, and they decided to get into a boat and investigate. As the boat passed the parking lot on the west end of Riverside Park, someone began pointing a flashlight at them.

"Little did I know that was an officer trying to shine a flashlight because we almost ran over (Brewer) in the water," Hines said. "We had no clue."

When they reached the boat dock on the east end of the park, Hines said a man pulled up in a minivan and ran down the dock.

"We didn't know who the guy was, so my uncle started backing up the boat," he stated.

However, the man managed to inform them there was a suspect who had jumped off the bridge and was wanted by police.

"Right then, a police officer pulls up and kicks open his door," Hines said. "He left his door open and came running down the dock. He said, "Halt! Police!"

Hines and the other four individuals in the boat helped Officer Monty Rothenberger get into the boat in an attempt to rescue Brewer.

"The officer and I were looking and looking, and then saw the guy going under the water," Hines said. "He wasn't even making much noise. We threw him a couple life preservers, and he didn't grab them. He didn't even react to them."

At that point, Hines knew what he had to do. As a former naval aircrewman, he had extensive training in saving drowning victims. His hand was in a cast after breaking it recently, but that didn't stop him.

"I ripped off my cast and dove in with my shirt on and everything," he said. "I got behind the guy and pulled him up as he was sinking."

Hines managed to get Brewer into the boat and Hines' uncle, Mark Schlaefli, navigated the vessel back to the dock. Brewer did not require CPR and had become aware of his surroundings by the time the boat reached shore, Hines stated.

The suspect was ultimately arrested for driving under the influence (first), aggravated eluding, careless driving and possession of marijuana.

The whole experience was "crazy," according to Hines.

"I was taking it easy that day, and then the next thing we know there's an officer getting in our boat and I'm jumping in the water after this guy and apprehending a suspect," he said. "I had been trained to save a drowning individual tons of times but I never had to use it. I never thought that training would come into effect."

Hines said he was glad he was in the right place at the right time to save a man's life.

"That was a pretty cool experience to share with my uncle (Mark)," he added. "I've always looked up to him, and we really got to do something special together."

And despite acting against the doctor's orders, Hines said he is having no problems with his helping hand.

"My hand is healing up and doing fine," he stated.

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