Firefighter Nick Bressette honored for extra effort
by Carla Occaso
MONTPELIER — It was the first time in recent memory that emergency responders pulled someone from the Winooski River alive, said James R. Quinn, deputy fire chief with the Montpelier Fire and Ambulance Department.
The survivor of the April 15 water rescue is not being named and the circumstances are not being detailed because the incident is related to a mental health issue, according to Captain Neil Martell with the Montpelier Police Department on April 21. But Martell said there is every reason to believe the survivor is fine because she was “conscious and alert when she came out of the water.”
It all started when someone working near the edge of the river heard a woman’s cries and saw her in the water. The good Samaritan tried to help, but could not get to her and around noon called 9-1-1.
According to the press release issued from MPD, the call came from the area of 326 State Street about a woman in the river yelling for help. Montpelier police along with Montpelier Fire Department and the Vermont State Police came to the rescue. Responders located a female in the river in distress. Officers and fire department members made several attempts to throw lifeline ropes to the victim unsuccessfully. As the victim continued down the river, Montpelier firefighter Nick Bressette entered the river at the Three Mile Bridge intersection and was able to grab hold of the victim and successfully bring her to the bank with the assistance of other officers and firefighters. The elderly female victim was suffering from hyperthermia, and was transported to the hospital. It is not fully known how the woman ended up in the river, but her car was later located on State Street near the interstate overpass across from Green Mountain Cemetery.
The city manager’s office felt recognition was due, and Deputy City Manager Jessie Baker wrote up a “city employee spotlight” honoring Bressette. Bressette’s job was all the more treacherous, Baker pointed out, because with “the spring runoff, the river is high, moving swiftly and very cold creating a dangerous situation for this individual and for the public safety personnel.” The high water created an extra layer of complication that caused the woman to be “bobbing in the water downstream of the Dairy Creme on Route 2,” leading emergency personnel to try to stay ahead of her by rushing to the next access point as she passed and throw her rope bags that she could hold onto and be pulled to shore, but she was too cold to grab the bags, Baker writes.
Finally, from along the banks of the river at the bridge, according to Baker, “Lieutenant Nicholas Bresette supported by firefighter Glenn Marold, and city and state police, made the decision to jump into the river to retrieve the individual. Lt. Bresette was able to pull her safely to shore.”
The whole rescue took about an hour, according to Quinn, who said this kind of event is rare in Montpelier. There have been about six instances of retrieving dead bodies from the river in recent memory, he said.