They found Smith “with water up to his neck, hanging on with one hand to a wooden boom,” Skusevich said.
Bea maneuvered the boat so Skusevich could jump out and pull Smith to safety. “He was very tired and very cold,” he said. Smith was also wearing heavy clothing, which weighed him down and made him heavy and awkward in the water.
With Bea still at the wheel, Skusevich was able to pull Smith into the boat and deliver him to a waiting ambulance.
Smith was treated for hypothermia at Lawrence General Hospital but is expected to be OK. His wife came by the fire department later Wednesday and thanked Skusevich, who pulled a hamstring in the rescue.
Skusevich stressed he could not take all the credit for the rescue and praised Bea’s quick cooperation. “That kid was so instrumental. He was calm ... calmer than I was,” he said.
Marsh, in a letter to Chief Jack Bergeron, praised Skusevich’s “quick thinking” and “controlled response.”
“Inspector Skusevich was able to formulate an alternative plan, put this plan into action and bring about a positive result, all of his own volition,” Marsh wrote. He added the fire department has been well served by Skusevich during his career.
“For this reason and the simple fact that Francis would see this as ‘just doing my job,’ he should be held up proudly as an example to the many new members of our department,” Marsh concluded.
He asked for the letter to be placed in Skusevich’s personnel file and recommended Skusevich for firefighter of the year.
Skusevich, however, was modest about his efforts. He noted the day quickly went from “a routine smoke detector inspection to a life or death situation.”
“That’s why I love this job,” Skusevich said.
Smith could not be reached for comment for this story.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.