---- — HAVERHILL — Roland Soucy planned to fish at Plug Pond yesterday. Instead, the 70-year-old Bradford resident cast his line in Round Pond, and helped save someone’s life.
Soucy arrived around 7:50 for a morning of fishing near the boat ramp on Stanley Drive, a dead end street off of Lawrence Street that runs along the south side of the pond.
On the opposite shore, 27-year-old Josh Lowman was fishing, hoping to catch some of the trout the state had recently stocked.
Then Soucy looked out to the middle of the pond, and saw a man in a boat also getting ready to fish.
“I was just setting up my rods and thinking, what a lucky guy to be in a boat, and that he’ll get all the fish,” Soucy said. “Suddenly, he shifted around in his boat, tried to compensate, then his legs went up into the air and he fell into the water.”
Soucy shouted to a man who’d just left his home near the boat ramp, telling him to call 911. The resident did so, and also got into his kayak to assist the floundering fisherman.
At first Lowman thought the commotion in the water was a big fish.
“When I looked I saw a boat go up in the air and guy in the water struggling to hold on,” said Lowman, who lives in Somerville and was in the area visiting in-laws. “I called 911 but they told me someone else had already called and help was on its way. The water was very cold and I didn’t think he could have held on for long.”
While waiting for a rescue team to arrive, Soucy watched as the fisherman struggled to hold onto his boat, a roughly 8-foot long metal pram with a plastic seat and oars.
“When he swam he created a wave that pushed it away, but he was able to get back to it,” Soucy said. “I kept shouting to him to keep hanging on and that help was coming. I could hear him shouting ‘hurry up, hurry up.’”
Soucy said the fisherman tried to pull himself back into his boat, but every time he did the opposite side of the boat tilted upwards and the boat filled with water.
“I know he went under for five to eight seconds,” Soucy said.
Less than 10 minutes after Soucy saw the man fall in, a rescue team from the Water Street fire station with assistance from the 16th Avenue station brought the man to shore safely in their rescue boat and wrapped him in a blanket.
Deputy fire Chief Douglas Brown said the man wasn’t wearing a life preserver, but he did have one in his boat. He said the man in the kayak nearly reached the struggling fisherman when the rescue boat arrived to pull him out of water.
“He was cold and tired and was taken to Merrimack Valley Hospital as a precaution,” Brown said. “He’s lucky these guys were around to see him, to talk to him and tell him that help was coming.”
Soucy said it was by God’s will that he and Lowman were there.
“It was a relief to know the man was alive and that he’ll be OK,” he said.