Man pinned under freezing waters thanks responders who rescued him

Nearly two months to the day since a scissor lift overturned in Rogers, Minn., and a crew of first responders saved the lives of a pair of tree trimmers, one of the victims who nearly lost his life had the opportunity to meet his rescuers.

On Wednesday, the Rogers Police Chief and a number of other firefighters and paramedics were recognized at the I-94 Chamber of Commerce First Responders Luncheon with one of their biggest fans in the audience.

While the chief of police has met Will Hamer several times, this was the first time dozens more who helped save his life got to do the same. 

Hamer spent one hour and seven minutes almost entirely underwater water and got out in one piece thanks to the people he was reunited with today. 

“I didn’t realize there was that many,” Hamer said, referring to the dozens responders he met. “If it wasn’t for you guys, I didn’t think I was going to make it.” 

In March, Will was working as part of a two man tree service crew when the tree trimmer he was on slid down an icy hill, crashed into a pond and trapped him nearly under water. 

Firefighter Ryan Morgando was among the first on scene and held Will's head above water. Both suffered hypothermia. 

“This one is personal. I got to know will quite a bit--how many kids he had, telling him he was going to come home and see his kids, he wasn’t going to lose his arm. So, we had a bond,” Morgando said.

The situation got even more dire as rescue attempts dragged Will further underwater. 

Wearing a dry suit, Rogers Police Chief Jeff Beahen took over holding Will's head so he could breathe. 

“He looked into my eyes when the water was up to my nose," Hamer said. "I couldn’t talk; I just looked at him hoping he would make the right decisions."

Together, the group of Rogers Police, firefighters, public works, Burda's Towing Service and North Memorial Medical Center worked to get Will out.

Fighting hypothermia and that same icy hill, first responders used a front loader hooked to a tow truck to lift the heavy tree trimmer just two inches so Will could be pulled out to safety.

The doctor on scene said he was minutes away from amputating Will's arm in order to save his life. 

“These guys, they’re like family now," Hamer said. "I made me a whole new family.”