TOOELE COUNTY, Utah (KTVX/KUCW) – A Utah resident saved a paralyzed woman’s life in a near-drowning after she rolled into a lake while belted into her wheelchair.
Tooele resident Kelly Roundtree was playing darts with his daughter on the balcony of his lakeside home on Aug. 1 when he heard calls for help coming from the other side of Stansbury Lake.
At first, Roundtree said he thought it might be children playing, but after another cry — this time one of panic — he knew something was wrong.
He then saw something black in the water and a woman on the phone across the lake. She was talking to emergency responders. Within seconds, Roundtree was out the door and in his car.
Officials say he left “without hesitation” and drove the few blocks around the lake. His daughter then stood on the shore and directed him to the woman in the water.
Officials say the paralyzed woman had rolled into the lake “while belted into her motorized wheelchair.” By the time Roundtree arrived only a minute or so later, her head was underwater with her face barely above the water line. Roundtree unfastened the seatbelt and held her head above water for what seemed like 10 to 15 minutes before officials arrived.
“911 had already been notified and help was already on the way, but had Kelly not gotten there before, we may be talking about a different story right now,” North Tooele Fire District Public Information Officer John Smith said.
Local firefighters, paramedics and deputies arrived and were able to help get her out of the lake safely.
While officials are recognizing him as “nothing short of heroic” for his rescue, Roundtree told News 2’s sister station, KTVX, he thinks anyone in his position would have done the same thing.
“Next you’re going to go interview a lady who’s got a great chili recipe,” Roundtree told KTVX with a smile. Roundtree said he feels like the rescue was “the only thing to do” in the situation.
Roundtree said the near-drowning happened at a time when there weren’t many people at the lake, and the few that were there didn’t notice anything was happening. He said she probably had been in the water for five minutes before he heard her calls for help.
When asked if he feels like a hero, he responded, “Not in the slightest.” Roundtree said he just wanted to make sure she was out of the water and OK.
“I was feeling a lot of empathy towards her because she’s unable to help herself and she’s strapped in this wheelchair in the water. That would be a scary position for anybody to be in,” Roundtree said.
And while Roundtree jokes that it was “probably the only useful thing [he’s] done all summer,” Smith said he hasn’t seen anyone act this way before. Smith also applauded him for driving around the lake instead of jumping in, as water rescues tend to lead to more people in trouble.
“This is a perfect example of people helping people, and while Kelly is very humble about his role in this, we have no problem calling him a hero,” Smith wrote in a Facebook post.