PORTLAND, Ore. — The people who run the Portland Christmas Ships parade love making people smile and bringing them joy. They never imagined they'd end up saving someone's life.

A man who was “barely alive” was rescued by a crew aboard one of the Christmas ships on the Willamette River in Portland Tuesday evening, according to an official with the Willamette Fleet.

The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office reported the man had been in crisis and tried to take his own life. However, Portland Fire & Rescue said the man was heard screaming in the water prior to going under.  

Rob Steffeck, Willamette Fleet president, said the victim was under for 30 seconds prior to his crew pulling him out of the frigid water.

"The person started going under. They were probably under for about 30 seconds and you could see bubbles coming up and just a hand above," Steffeck said.  "He said, 'Help me' and the water temp is probably 42 degrees so the person was definitely hypothermic."

About five minutes after the person was safely aboard the Christmas Ship, Portland Fire & Rescue arrived and took the person to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital.

"We've got a great group of people. Everyone's willing to help and we were just glad we were in the right place at the right time," Steffeck said.

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