PANOLA COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – Two Panola County officers received awards on Tuesday for their rescue efforts in saving the life of an elderly man who had fallen from his boat while fishing in 2021.
Panola County Game Warden Jacob Philley, who received the Director’s Life Saving Citation, responded to the scene at Lake Murvaul on March 8, 2021 after a 911 call came in about a boat that appeared to be adrift. The caller said they could see the boat, and it appeared to be empty.
Minutes later, Deputy Chris Hansen, who received the Director’s Award, made it to the caller’s property and told Philley he could see someone hanging onto the motor “but barely managing to stay above the water.”
Philley got into his patrol vessel, and officials said he then made his way across the lake and approached the stranded boat. Philley reported to have found an unoccupied 16′ aluminum boat anchored with several fishing lines in the water.
“As Warden Philley approached the stern of the boat he discovered a male subject holding on to an anchor line that was wrapped around the motor with his head barely above the water,” the sheriff’s office said. “The man was pale in color and was not responding to any of Warden Philley’s questions.”
The man was reportedly shivering, unable to speak and not wearing a life jacket. Realizing he could not rescue the elderly man alone, officials said Philley placed a flotation device around the man then traveled 100 yards to the bank to pick up Hansen from a nearby pier.
“The two officers returned and, working together, were able to pull the elderly man out of the water and roll him into game warden’s patrol vessel,” officials said. “They took the man to the nearby shoreline, wrapped him in blankets, and awaited EMS. The officers had no idea at the time that the man had been in the frigid lake water for almost three hours.”
Officials said it was later learned the man had suffered a mild heart attack and was hypothermic when he was rescued. While fishing, he had fallen out of the boat after attempting to lift up the anchor.
He said he attempted to grab a life jacket but it had gotten caught on something. The man told police he took the anchor line and wrapped it around the engine, and used the rope to support his head so he would not go under water.
The man was transported to a local hospital where he is reported to have recovered from his injuries.