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Tigard man saves man from drowning

Thomas Bates' quick action last weekend likely saved a man's life, after he rescued a drowning man outside of Tillamook.

Bates, a custodian at Charles F. Tigard Elementary School, was celebrating his 30th birthday with friends at the Jones Creek footbridge between Tillamook and Banks when he heard shouts for help.

It was about 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 3, and Bates was ready to call it a day when a woman and her daughter rushed over to him, screaming that her husband was drowning.

“She said, ‘My husband needs help, you have to help save my husband,’” Bates said.

BatesThe rural area had no cell service to call 911, Bates said, so he jumped in the water to see what he could do to help.

“We were so far out of town, there was no cell service, and there was no one else out there,” Bates said.

He found the man unconscious and submerged about three feet under the water.

“It was like he was sinking to the bottom of the river,” Bates said.

Grabbing the man’s hand, Bates began to pull the 250-pound man toward shore.

“He looked to me like he was dead,” Bates said. “His eyes were rolled back, and his face was blue and swollen. He wasn’t going to come back.”

But Bates began CPR, and within a few minutes, the man regained consciousness.

“He gave me his name and was coming back around.”

The man and his family drove for the nearest emergency room, Bates said.

The training was offered last summer through the Tigard-Tualatin School District.

Bates’ training class was offered to custodians, grounds crew and maintenance workers across the district.

The district has made teaching hands-only CPR a priority for its students, partnering with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.

“There was only one reason why I felt confident to give him CPR, and that was the training I had through my work,” Bates said. “If I didn’t have that, I probably wouldn’t have attempted it.”

Piseth Pich, a spokesman with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, said that when emergency situations take place in areas without access to 911, it's important to have someone run for help.

"Even if there is no guarantee that you will or won’t have service, you should still call 911," he said. "The nearest 911 dispatch center is likely much more familiar with the area, and they are dispatching people who are familiar with the area and can get them the help they need."

Bates said he hasn’t spoken to the man since that day, and hopes he’s doing alright. He said it was a birthday he won't ever forget.

“I felt really good about the whole thing," he said. "The wife and daughter were happy.”

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