Heroic river rescue prevents drowning during Storm Eunice
A man who jumped into Amsterdam’s IJ river nearly became another of the city’s casualties during Storm Eunice on Friday. The man wound up in the frigid water as wind gusts exceeded 50 km/h, but one bystander’s bold rescue attempt likely saved the victim’s life.
Ash Lomberg, 36, saw police cars gathering as he biked past Amsterdam Central Station near De Ruijterkade around 1:15 p.m. Friday. Lomberg called it a “weird circumstance” and said he wouldn’t normally have stopped. But then, something caught his attention.
“I saw my work colleague coming out of the water in his underwear,” he told the NL Times.
The coworker was Michael Smink, and he had just prevented a man from drowning.
Smink, an Enterprise Account Executive at Chargebee, had been biking home to avoid the storm when he seemed to see a man just step off the ledge into the water a short distance away. He yelled to the man, trying to convince him to climb a ladder to safety, but the man was face-down and immobile in the water, Smink said.
Smink said that maybe 30 seconds had passed before he stripped off his clothes and jumped into the six-degree water.
“It’s only later that I started to realize the impact that it could have had on my life,” Smink said. “That’s something that I realized a bit later, when the adrenaline had left my body.”
For 10 minutes, Smink fought to keep the unresponsive man afloat and bring him to the ladder at the riverside. “It was a bit of a struggle to get him, because he wanted to stay under the water,” Smink explained.
Finally, he was able to pull the man onto his lap and climb the first meter up the ladder, where other people waiting at the edge of the water could grab the man’s arm. The Amsterdam fire department arrived at the scene around 1:15 p.m., but by that time Smink had succeeded in rescuing the man from the water, a fire department spokesperson said.
Smink played water polo for 11 years, he said, which made him initially confident he could help the man to safety. But after the ordeal, he also talked it over with people who were close to him and called support line Slachtofferhulp. “I gave them a call to share my story, because they probably hear these stories everyday. And that comforted me as well,” he said.
When asked what made him jump into the water, Smink responded: “Nobody else was taking action. I probably would have regretted not taking action my entire life, because I was 100 percent sure that he was going to die.”
Lomberg called his colleague a “public ally for his heroic effort in saving a life.”