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Wheelchair-bound man pulled to safety

July 22, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - When Stephanie Snyder saw a wheelchair-bound man careening down an incline toward the lake in City Park just before 4 p.m. Sunday, she automatically did what her lifesaving training told her to do.

"I yelled to my sister to call 911 and watch my kids," Snyder said as she ran after the out-of-control wheelchair.

The wheelchair crashed into a railing, hit some rocks and then catapulted Michael High into the water.

A full-time Hood College student, Snyder, 26, said her American Red Cross training and the lifesaving skills she learned from Karen Meinelschmidt at the Richard A. Henson Family YMCA helped her Sunday.

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"I jumped into the water while two men got the wheelchair off him," Snyder said. Someone gave her a towel to apply pressure to the large gash on High's head from the accident.

Snyder held High in the water as still as she could so he wouldn't be injured further. When ambulance crews arrived, the backboard was lowered into the water so High wouldn't have to be lifted out of the water without support.

"I talked with the man and he told me his name," Snyder said. "I was trying to keep him calm the whole time."

High, 32, a resident of Beverly Healthcare of Hagerstown, was getting a drink at a water fountain near the south end of the park when his motorized wheelchair lost power, Hagerstown Fire Department Battalion Chief Ron Horn said.

"Unable to use his brakes, he rolled about 200 feet, broke through the railing around the lake and landed face down in the water," Horn said. "Conscious, he rolled over once he was in the lake."

Horn said Snyder did everything right until help arrived.

"She knew just what to do, including not trying to get him out of the water," Horn said.

Community Rescue Service and fire department personnel responded to the 3:56 p.m. call. High was removed from the lake and transported to Washington County Hospital where he was treated and released.

"He thanked me as they were getting ready to go to the hospital," Snyder said. "I was glad I knew what to do."

High has been paralyzed from the neck down since 1995, when he fell 22 feet during a construction accident while doing a roofing job.

Hagerstown City Police Officer Joseph Okronley handled the investigation of the incident.

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