An ex-Navy rescue swimmer's lazy float down the Clackamas River took a disastrous turn when he became tangled in nylon rope Saturday, but a miraculous rescue performed by two untrained teenagers saved his life.
Lonnie Hamon said he was trying to pull the raft out of the water when it tipped over on a tree and he became tangled in the rope.
Eric Rauch and his cousin watched Hamon attempt to take one big breath, but his head was under water.
"That's one thing they teach you in the Navy. Drown proofing. Just try to get one last breath and hold it," Hamon said.
"I actually watched my body go limp, and then I don't remember anything after that," Hamon said.
The current in that stretch of the Clackamas River moves so fast that it took Rauch and his cousin three attempts to reach the former Navy search and rescue swimmer.
"They missed me the first time, they missed me the second time, and they still kept on it," Hamon said.
Once the teens cut Hamon loose from the tree, his lifeless body floated down the river.
Rauch said he and his cousin made eye contact and thought, "this guy is dead right now."
But Hamon said the two teens still didn't give up.
"(They) managed to find a way to cut the rope off my neck, and then they still didn't give up. Any of that stuff doesn't happen, I wouldn't be here today," Hamon said.
Rauch, who has no formal CPR training, performed chest compressions and brought Hamon back to life.
"There's no way I should have gotten out of it," Hamon said. "Zero."
Nearly every part of Hamon's body is scratched or bruised, including his eyes, prompting him to wear sunglasses when he was interviewed by FOX 12 on Monday.
Those injuries are all expected to heal and allow for more years on the river for Hamon and his 9-year-old son.
Hamon said he hopes the teens get the recognition they deserve.
"There's a lot of words in the dictionary like family and hope and love and spirit and I get to experience all of that again because of those two guys," Hamon said.
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