Observant neighbor rescues man stuck in watery ditch

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- It was a case of being at the right place at the right time this weekend in Puyallup when a neighbor rescued a man he found upside down in a watery ravine.

Sean Scanlan has seen cars end up in the ditch on his road, but he never expected to see feet poking through the bushes. But that's exactly what happened as he and his wife drove the familiar road on Saturday evening.

"I was coming up the road, I was in the passenger's seat," Scanlan said. "I just happened to be talking with my wife, I looked over and saw two feet from about here sticking up out of the blackberry bushes."

They stopped the car to investigate. Scanlan couldn't even see the man's upper body under all the bramble, but he realized the man was slipping toward the water runoff.

It was his neighbor, Rick Goelzer, who was disoriented but still conscious.

Goelzer said he suffered a seizure.

"It was not a tonic-clonic episode," he said. "I lost control of my muscles and pitched into the ditch."

Scanlan tried to pull Goelzer out on his own, but they both ended up sliding down the ravine slope. He held on to Goelzer and called 911. It took three firemen, but both men were pulled safely from the ravine.

If it had been minutes later and darker, the outcome could have been much different. Scanlan doubts he would have noticed the dark shoes in the ditch, and Central Pierce Fire and Rescue officials say Goelzer could have spent the entire night trapped.

"I was kind of grateful and kind of embarrassed," Goelzer said.

Saturday's incident wasn't Goelzer's first fall or his most frightening since he suffered a brain injury 10-years ago.

"I've had more than one episode where I've pitched myself into the ditch," he said.

Goelzer believes he would have eventually been able to get out of the ditch on his own, but he said his observant neighbor made it happen faster. Both men walked away sharing the same message.

"Please keep helping your neighbors," they said.