ITHACA, N.Y.—Cornell University students Alexander Chung, Anjan Mani and Felipe Santamaria saved a man who fell into the cold waters of Taughannock Falls State Park on March 10, the school announced Wednesday morning.

The victim was taken to Cayuga Medical Center for medical evaluation via ambulance. He was later released, but was not identified.

Chung was eating lunch with friends when they were alerted by another person that someone had fallen into the water. Chung ran over, finding Mani and Santamaria at the end of the pier trying to retrieve the man from the water. When Mani and Santamaria had reached the end of the pier, they said they found the man clinging to the ladder but significantly weakened from having been in the 40 degree water for several minutes.

“Once I saw the guy, we started taking off our shoes and hats,” Santamaria said. “And I went down the ladder (and into the water) and Anjan (Mani) stayed on top and reached his arms down to grab him.”

Mani said the man was “a reasonably big guy,” according to the school, and that a combination of his weakness, several layers and the depth of the water made it difficult to get him out of the water as they grappled for more than five minutes.

“At one point, when I tried to pull him and myself up, I fell in completely,” Santamaria said. “And then I was kind of in the same position that he was in. (…) And he said something like, ‘Oh, don’t worry about me, save yourself first.’ That really scared me. I was trying to push his legs up onto the ladder, but he kept saying, ‘I can’t do it. I can’t.'”

Eventually Santamaria had to return to the pier, when Chung and Mani went in and were able to grab the man’s arms and swim him to safety.

“It was about a minute before I could talk, before I could start helping the man,” Mani said, additionally grateful that he was able to help the man in such a desperate situation. “I was just trying to keep my head above water.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com