St. Paul chief honors rowers who tried to rescue man in river

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 20, 2010 - 8:45 AM

College rowers who participated in the rescue of a doomed urban explorer from the Mississippi River are among several who will receive a high honor from St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington.

The Chief's Awards will be presented Wednesday to citizens "for their valued and critical assistance to the St. Paul Police Department." The brief ceremony will be held at the Western District Police Headquarters, 389 N. Hamline Av., with a reception to follow.

Among the recipients will be University of St. Thomas rowers Danielle Assie, Jim Portmann and Kyle Smisek, and University of Minnesota rower Barry Gustafson.

On April 26, 2009, the four were helping take down an old dock on the Minneapolis side of the river, when they heard a man yelling from the riverbank that he and his friend were swept into the river, and his friend was still in the water and moving rapidly downstream.

Ian W. Talty, 30, of Woodbury, and Nicholas Breid, 30, of Richfield, were exploring and photographing a bluffside tunnel, when they were swept into the river south of the Lake Street-Marshall Avenue Bridge.

Assie and Portman jumped into a motor boat, while Gustafson and Smisek got in another boat and began searching for Talty. One of the four also called 911.

Arriving about the same time was a St. Paul police officer, who commandeered one of the boats and went with Assie and Portmann to look for Talty.

After about 20 minutes, Talty was found about 500 yards south of the bridge. Assie, Portmann and the officer pulled him into their boat. Talty was given CPR by the officer and the students, then taken to Hennepin County Medical Center with a faint pulse. He later died.

"Their willingness and courage to take action on a fast-moving river in unfavorable weather is to be commended," the Police Department said in announcing the awards.

Star Tribune staff writer Heron Marquez Estrada contributed to this report.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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