Carl Schultz plunged his face into the murky water, looking for a body, bubbles, movement – any sign of life. He saw nothing.
Four minutes earlier an alarm rang in Naperville’s Fire Station Number 10. The screen read that a car had entered a retention pond off of Winding River Drive, two miles away.
Schultz grabbed the cold-water suit and got in the back of the ambulance. He could get dressed on the road.
“So I was sitting in this seat getting dressed, listening to the radio and listening to them talking up front,” said Schultz. “I looked out the front when we were maneuvering between traffic in the circle where the scene was at, and as soon as we stopped, I knew it was time to go. Out that door and right to the shore.”
Schultz signaled the man to try to swim away from the car, which is standard protocol if the rescuer thinks the victim can save themselves. But when the man’s head went under, Schultz dove in.
After a few powerful strokes, Schultz realized he’d overshot his target.
“I shoved my head under the water,” said Schultz. “I couldn’t see anything under the water. Then I took a deep, deep breath and I tried to go as deep as I could. And then out of the gloom, the murky water, I saw about half a hand and some fingers and it was full extension. So if he was a few inches further I wouldn’t have been able to get him.”
The response team reeled the pair out of the water, where the victim was given rescue compressions and medical attention.
Schultz slapped the air mask on the victim and let the rest of the team do their jobs.
“It was not all me, it was my team behind me that made it successful,” said Schultz. “I probably could have swam him out but it was much quicker that they pulled me out. Immediately took care of him, so medical care was right there instantaneously. Someone was on top of him within three or four seconds.”
The identity of the victim has not been released, but while being taken to the hospital for treatment, he told firefighters the whole thing was a mistake and he’d simply pushed the wrong pedal.
The last Schultz saw of the man was the medical team loading him into the ambulance. Schultz never learned his name, but said there’s a standing offer if he’s interested.
“If I do meet the gentleman, he and I are going to head over to the YMCA and learn to swim together.”
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.