A Duluth man's quiet Sunday night turned into a lifesaving adventure when he dove into the St. Louis River to rescue a woman who was drowning about 100 yards offshore.
Noah Vanriper, 36, was lounging on his couch at his home in the city's Morgan Park neighborhood around 8:40 p.m. when he heard lots of sirens. He flipped on his police scanner and heard a call about a person in distress in the river near Blackmer Park
Vanriper, who is certified as a firefighter, heard screams as he ran to the park immediately behind his house, where he encountered a woman who told him her friend was in the water.
By then an officer had arrived. The two used their flashlights to find the woman. That's when Vanriper tossed the officer his phone and told him he was going in.
"I was doing Michael Phelps style," he said, referring to the multiple gold medal-winning Olympic swimmer. "When I got within 10 yards of her I kept yelling 'can you hear me.' When I reached her there was no movement, but I could see her face was out of the water. She didn't say anything, but she rotated her head and eyes to me. So I grabbed her and swam her back to shore."
The victim, 52, was conscious when Vanriper got her on land and handed her off to rescue crews. She was taken to a hospital with noncritical injuries, said deputy Matt Sobczak of the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office.
Her name has not been released.
Vanriper, who is a department manager at a Fleet Farm store, said he has been trying to get a job with a fire department since he finished his training, but "it's been hard."
Vanriper shrugged off his heroic effort, saying "I was just sitting on my couch not doing anything. Rescue was not close enough and somebody had to go."
Vanriper said this is not his first rescue. He's helped at nonfatal car crashes in the past, but this by far was the most dramatic.
"I never gave it second thoughts," he said. "That's just who I am."
With the rescue complete, the woman's friend gave Vanriper a big hug.
Deputies later learned the woman was attempting suicide, Sobczak said.