A man and his 2 Golden Retrievers are heroes after rescuing a man from drowning in fridgid waters
When a powerful wave swept Neil Maycock out to sea 37 years ago, only the bravery of a passing stranger and his dog saved the life of the then-3-year-old boy. The stranger, out walking his dog, dove into the sea, and with the help of his Labrador retriever, dragged the drowning boy back to the shores of his native Great Britain.
Yesterday, fate allowed Maycock, now 40, to return the favor.
Maycock dove into the freezing waters of New York’s Centerport Harbor yesterday to rescue a stranger who’d fallen in just after 3 p.m. Maycock’s sidekicks in the rescue? His two golden retrievers.
Before he nearly drowned, 23-year-old Michael Johnson was attempting to walk across the thinly iced-over Centerport Harbor, fire officials said. Nearly across the harbor, about 40 feet from shore, the ice gave way, plunging the Centerport man into the freezing water. A woman standing on shore saw Johnson fall and shouted the alarm.
At that moment, Maycock happened to be strolling on the beach, his two sons beside him and their two dogs trotting up ahead. At the noise, with his 7 and 10-year-old sons frozen in fear, Maycock dashed toward the sinking figure, splashing forward in jeans and hiking boots, shoving aside chunks of ice as he began to swim toward the drowning man. “If I’d thought about it a little bit more, I wouldn’t have done anything,” Maycock said, reached later at home in Centerport. “It was just instinct.”
The two retrievers, Alfie, 5, and Gus, 1, followed Maycock frantically into the water.
For one frightening moment, Johnson slipped beneath the surface, but Maycock took hold of his forearm and began towing him toward land. Maycock kept his flailing charge at arm’s length, to keep both from going under. But Johnson seemed to need more support, and the pair were struggling.
So young Alfie swam alongside Johnson and the man was able to drape his free arm across the dog’s furry back. “It gave him something to hang on to,” Maycock said.
The trio were then able to paddle together to safety. “It was an unbelievable job that this guy did,” said Centerport fire Chief Kevin Kustka.
Maycock, also of Centerport, said his own near-death experience 37 years ago was not unlike the one he encountered on Sunday. He said a wave swept him out to sea and that only the bravery of a passer-by and the man’s Labrador retriever saved him.
Johnson was taken to Huntington Hospital and treated for severe hypothermia. Maycock was treated for cuts on his hands he sustained from battling the sharp bits of ice. “The dogs did not suffer,” Kustka said. “They were able to recover quickly.”
Watching his father’s icy plunge at first, 10-year-old Harry said, “I was a bit nervous and scared.” But later on, “it seems like a big adventure,” he said. “I can’t wait to tell my friends at school about this.”