A local Army reservist saved a man from drowning on the Illinois River Saturday, June 20.

U.S. Army Reserve 486 Civil Affairs Cpl. Jesse Cotter, 23, was kayaking on the river with his fiancé when he saw something that made him spring into action.

Cotter said he reached the “S” just before War Eagle Resort when he noticed a kid going past a logjam in the water.

“I got to the kid as fast as I could to make sure he made it past the logs. He made it through them,so I turned around in my kayak and started going against the current to reach my group,” Cotter said.

Cotter said that was when he saw something out of the corner of his eye.

“I spotted a hand in the water. I got over to the logs and I could see a head as if they were coming up for air, but then they disappeared,” Cotter said. “I reached in and grabbed ahold of a forearm and pulled up.”

Dwight Catron, of Marble City, was able to tell Cotter that his foot was stuck in the logs.

“I got him unpinned and pulled his upper body onto my kayak, and he started coughing up water,” said Cotter.

Cotter said a raft of people was close enough, and he yelled for help. Luckily, a man at the campsite said he was a paramedic, and they were able to get Catron onto the shore.

Cotter said this wasn’t the first time he’s saved someone from drowning on the river.

“It was incredible. About two miles upstream, I was trying to catch up to someone and I ended up turning around and catching up to my group,” Cotter said. “If I stayed with my group the whole time, I wouldn’t have seen Catron’s hand.”

Cotter said he reached out Catron on Facebook and told him he hopes he does something with his second chance at life. Catron thanked him for saving his life.

Cotter said the river current was average, and he wanted to reiterate just how dangerous the river is when alcohol is involved.

“If you’re going to drink or get drunk while on the river, make sure you have someone with you who is going to be aware,” Cotter said. “Having the training I have made in 486 Civil Affairs, that helped me better handle and address the situation.”

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