ST. MARYS — A St. Marys woman was pulled from the St. Marys River Thursday afternoon by several local law enforcement officials.
At approximately 1:40 p.m. Thursday, a 911 call was placed reporting a woman was floating in the St. Marys River, between South and Spring streets. That call was placed by Auglaize County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Little — who was off duty at the time.
“I was parked on South Street near the practice football field looking at the visitors bleachers because of problems we had been having,” Little told The Evening Leader. “I then heard a female screaming and it sounded like it was coming from behind the armory. I didn’t think anyone should be back there now so I walked over and walked up onto the bank and looked through the woods and that’s when I saw a lady down there.”
The woman, who has been identified as Marilyn Hofacker, 69, was screaming for help. When Little saw her, he immediately called 911. He then got under the bridge at South Street in an attempt to reach the woman.
“I screamed for her to try to get her to swim to me, but she couldn’t move,” Little said. “So I went back up and yelled over to (City Engineer) Craig Moeller and he came out. I asked for him to get some rope and he didn’t have any so I asked for an extension cord, and he ran back inside. I then saw the police department pull up and another deputy and I could hear the fire department coming.”
As Hofacker was carried away by the swollen river and strong current, Little jumped into the river in an attempt to reach her. Shortly after Auglaize County Sheriff’s Deputy James Holtzapple and St. Marys Police Chief Greg Foxhoven also jumped into the river to help pull the woman to the bank of the river. A slew of first responders helped the three men and Hofacker onto the bank, where the woman was loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Little said. “I didn’t see anyone else and I didn’t see anyone I could yell to for help.”
Foxhoven touted the cooperation among all first responders on the scene for helping pull Hofacker from the water.
“It worked well,” Foxhoven said. “I give him (Little) a lot of credit. I am happy he decided to do something. No one on the scene hesitated either. We just all did what we thought was needed to be done to get her to safety.”
St. Marys Fire Chief Joey Weaver said Hofacker was unable to communicate with first responders when she was pulled from the river. Given the frigid water temperature, Weaver said hypothermia could have set in rather quickly. He also noted his department did not receive any calls reporting any crashes in the area.
“We didn’t have any reports of vehicles in the water,” Weaver said. “We are still unsure of how she got in the water.”
Weaver said the officers were taken to the hospital for the treatment of minor injuries. He also praised the rapid response of all involved in the rescue.
“I think everyone at the scene did an excellent job,” Weaver said. “I think they did an excellent job and they all went above and beyond the call of duty.”
This morning, St. Marys Police Sgt. Shawn Vondrell confirmed to The Evening Leader Hofacker was later transferred to a hospital in Lima. Vondrell said investigators believe Hofacker fell into the river somewhere in the area south of the railroad trestle. Vondrell also said officials were unable to determine how long Hofacker had been in the water before being seen.