LOGAN, Utah — If it weren’t for a home run during a recreational softball playoff game in northern Utah, a man who fell into an irrigation ditch might have drowned.
Bart Griffiths was fetching a ball that was hit over a fence at the Willow Park Sports Complex in Logan on Wednesday when he saw something out of the corner of his eye.
“I was picking it up and walking back in, and I glanced over toward the swamp, and I thought I saw something gray,” Griffiths told The Herald Journal. “What it was, was the tire of the wheelchair sticking up. And I thought, ‘Why is somebody dumping something in the swamp?’”
But then he spotted a 62-year-old man nearby, face-down in about 6 inches of water. Griffiths thought the man was dead.
“When I lifted him up I said, ‘Can you hear me?’ And he said, ‘I’m dying,’” Griffiths said. “And I thought to myself, ‘Oh, that’s a good sign (he’s talking).”
Griffiths called 911 on his cellphone, and paramedics transported the man to the hospital. First responders said the man, who had propped himself up on his elbows to breathe, had probably been in the ditch for 15 to 30 minutes and was starting to show signs of hypothermia.
The man apparently had crashed his motorized wheelchair into the edge of the canal and was thrown into the water, Griffiths said. He was cited for intoxication after he was treated, according to police.
Griffiths, who’s largely responsible for running the softball league, told the newspaper he doesn’t see himself as a hero — just someone who was in the right place at the right time.
“If Grant wouldn’t have hit his (homer), I don’t think I would have been back out there since Wednesday was the last day we had games that week,” Griffiths said, referring Grant Calverley, the player who knocked the ball out of the park. “So even right now, that guy might have still been in there.”