Salt Lake City teen helps save drowning woman in Provo River

Jul 17, 2022, 6:11 PM | Updated: Jul 26, 2022, 3:17 pm

PROVO, Utah — A Salt Lake City teen is being hailed as a hero after saving a woman from drowning in the Provo River on Saturday.

Nathan Johnsen, 17 was with his church youth group when one of his youth leaders spotted something in the water.

“I saw something in the water coming rapidly towards us, and I couldn’t tell until it got closer that it was a person,” recounted Mary Anne Douglas, a youth leader and local nurse.

Douglas saw the young woman being dragged down by a deflated inner tube and an ill-fitting life vest.

“I was worried for a minute that this person was already dead,” Douglas said. “That’s what it looked to me was this was a person who was dying.”

Johnsen’s boat had just launched when Douglas shouted out. Johnsen jumped in without hesitation, and within a couple of strokes, he was next to the woman.

“She could not breathe at all when I got to her. For 30 seconds, her head was underwater and I could not get it above,” Johnsen said.

The swift current and rocky riverbed made it nearly impossible to get her up.

“I genuinely thought I wasn’t going to be able to rescue her for a good 30 seconds,” Johnsen said.

Finally, the two got to a section of the river where Johnsen could stand. With help from others, he got the woman out of the water.

Something that, moments before, he didn’t think would be possible.

“I literally thought she could die in front of me and it could partly be my fault, and I thought we need to save this lady, so it was just a miracle,” Johnsen said.

“Another minute or two this would have been a different ending. The timing of him getting there and getting the chin out of the water was in the last minute to minute of a half of that window to save her,” Douglas said.

Rescue crews said this is a reminder to never go alone on the river and to always have a life jacket that fits properly.

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Salt Lake City teen helps save drowning woman in Provo River