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'It was a miracle': Soldier rescues Virginia veteran from Appomattox River

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Posted at 1:50 PM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 17:20:18-04

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. — Mike Goodwin called his rescue a miracle. The 75-year-old Vietnam veteran was in big trouble after falling out of his boat while fishing in the Appomattox River last week.

"When I reached back for the anchor rope, I just went right over," Goodwin said.

For 30 minutes, he clung to the side of the boat, trapped in freezing water.

"I got ready to turn loose a few times, just couldn't do it," he said.

Just down the river, Chief Warrant Officer Chris Miserlian was setting up to go fishing after finishing class at nearby Fort Lee.

Miserlian had his rod and reel but did not have something he uses every day — his hearing aids.

"I noticed a boat," Miserlian recalled his time at the river bank. "[Then] I thought I heard a cry for help."

Miserlian moved closer.

"I definitely heard somebody holler for help," he said.

It was Goodwin.

He was in the water, where he'd clung to his boat for more than 30 minutes.

"It was a miracle seeing him standing there, already waist-deep in the water and heading in my direction. It was a miracle," Goodwin said.

But the rescue was not easy.

"The first thing that happens is I sink past my knees in some real sticking mud," Miserlian said. "[Then] I noticed he was on oxygen, so I asked if he was breathing fine."

Unable to get Goodwin back in the fishing boat, Miserlian climbed aboard and started the trolling motor.

"I told the gentleman to hang on; we're going to pull the anchor and try to get to the boat ramp," Miserlian said.

It worked, and eventually, both the soldier and the veteran were on dry land.

"It was a miracle. There's no getting around it," Goodwin said.

The duo reunited at the river this week to meet each other under calmer circumstances.

"Thank you so much," the veteran said.

"You're welcome, anytime," the soldier replied.

Wayne Covil at WTVR first reported this story.