Lance Pattock and a park ranger struggle to save man trying to drown in Blue Lake
It's hard to imagine - a man trying to commit suicide by drowning in a lake and then fighting the two men who came to his aid.
But that's exactly what happened on Saturday, Aug. 12, at Blue Lake Park.
The suicidal man, a 32-year-old Troutdale resident, survived and was taken to Adventist Medical Center. Federal privacy laws prevent hospital staff members from commenting on his condition.
Meanwhile, the two men who saved him still can't believe what happened.
Robert 'Lance' Pattock, 47, grew up on Blue Lake and bought his parents' house on Northeast Interlachen Lane three years ago.
On Saturday morning, at about 11 a.m., he was gazing out his kitchen window when he noticed someone in the middle of the lake. It looked like the person was struggling, so Lance grabbed some binoculars and took another look.
The person was in trouble, so Lance hopped in his son's metal boat, motored out to the man and threw a floating seat cushion toward him.
'At first it looked like he was really relieved, because he was thoroughly exhausted. He was breathing really hard,' Lance said, adding that the man grabbed the cushion and then hung on to the side of the boat. 'You could just see the relief on his face.'
But the guy just looked at Lance with a hollow look in his eyes.
'What's your name?' Lance asked.
'You speak English?'
'Ya,' the man said, with an irritated tone. 'My name's Jason.'
'OK, Jason, let's catch your breath here,' Lance said, holding on to Jason's wrist. 'We'll spend a couple minutes here, and I'll help you in the boat or take you to shore.'
A startling statement
At first Jason didn't say much. Then he looked at Lance and said, 'You know what, I believe in Jesus Christ.'
Lance thought the man was just thankful to be rescued.
'Maybe he wanted us to meet today,' Lance replied.
Then he noticed the steely look in the young man's eyes and offered to pull him into the boat.
'No, I don't want to get in the boat.'
Thinking the man was just too tired to push himself onboard, Lance offered to tow him the 50 yards to shore.
'I don't want to go to shore.'
Lance noticed the man's pile of clothes on the shore. Thinking he might be naked and embarrassed, he kept a hold on Jason's wrist and said, 'Come on to shore.'
But Jason didn't want any help.
'I want to die, I want to die right here.'
'Not today, not with me out here,' said Lance, who tightened his grip as 20 years of Marine Corp Reserves training kicked in. 'Whatever it is, it's not so bad that you have to die.'
Jason tried to yank his wrist away. After about a 30-second struggle, Lance let go of one wrist and gabbed the other one with both hands. 'I just lifted him up, his arm into the boat so his armpit was stuck on the edge of the boat.'
Then Lance - an assistant wrestling coach at H.B. Lee Middle School last year - pinned the man's arm on the inside of the boat.
Jason couldn't get in or get out. He had no leverage.
'9-1-1. Suicide. Get somebody out here,' Lance yelled to the swimmers, boaters and neighbors on the lake.
The man kept struggling and raised his fist as if to hit his rescuer.
That didn't go over well.
'If it takes me to knock you out and pull you to shore, I will do that,' Lance told him.
Jason responded by trying to put his head in the lake to gulp and breath in water.
Life or death struggle
The struggle was on.
Meanwhile, Jim Caudell, a Metro park ranger, got a call from a staffer at Blue Lake Park's entrance.
A man had driven into the park and left his car blocking the entrance before walking across the field toward the lake. Jim immediately called police and ran the vehicle's license plates to see if it was stolen.
Then a woman drove toward Jim, slammed on the brakes and stumbled toward him, her motor still running.
'Call 9-1-1, there's an emergency down at the lake,' she yelled frantically.
Jim, 45, ran to shore and saw a man hanging over the side of a boat with another man in the water.
Someone had a heart attack, or maybe fell overboard, Jim thought.
Then he heard Lance, the man hanging over the boat, yell for help with the suicidal man.
'I realized they were grappling,' Jim said. 'And he (Lance) couldn't get any closer to shore while hanging on to the guy. He couldn't do both. He needed help.'
His mind racing, Jim knew it would take too long to get a patrol boat out there. So he peeled off his shirt, shoes and socks, emptied his pockets and jumped in the lake.
Jim, who is trained in swift-water rescues, swam out and pulled himself into the vessel. 'Dear God, I'm tired,' he told Lance, who echoed his sentiments.
All the while, Jason gritted his teeth and met the men with a catatonic, 1000-mile stare.
One last desperate act
At one point, the man tried to jump in the boat, spilling water into the vessel in an attempt to tip it over.
'I have a 5-year-old girl with curly hair at home,' Jim yelled at the man, stepping back to counterbalance the boat. 'There's no way water's coming into this boat.'
Lance pinned Jason's leg, which he'd swung over the side of the boat in his effort to tip it over.
'You're not doing this to us,' Lance said, wrapping a rope around the man's ankle and strapping his leg to the inside of the boat. 'You're not doing this on our conscience … '
All the while, Jim kept hold of the man's arm.
He thrashed all the way to shore.
Once on land, a Troutdale police officer and two Multnomah County sheriff's deputies tried to calm the man and place him in cuffs. This just made him more violent.
He broke his one cuffed arm free, swinging toward the officers.
'All this while he's still tied to my boat,' Lance said.
Police ended up using a Taser to subdue the man, who was transported to a Portland hospital.
According to a police report, the man later told police he was sorry and that he hadn't been 'living a good lifestyle lately.' All he remembered of the incident was wondering if he could swim across the lake, sliding into the water and a boat taking him to shore.
Lance still marvels at the man's physical strength, his resolve and the overall weirdness of it all.
'It was bizarre,' he said. '… He wanted to do it. It was really strange how he was sticking his head under the water, drinking the lake water.'
Despite the man's fighting, Jim isn't convinced he really wanted to end his life. Otherwise, he wouldn't have gone to a public park teeming with people on a warm Saturday.
'It was a call for help … and he got it,' Jim said.