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‘I knew what I had to do’ -- Teen saves 2 men from drowning in Kalamazoo River

‘I knew what I had to do’ -- Teen saves 2 men from drowning in Kalamazoo River
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 6:15 PM EDT
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HOMER, Mich. (WILX) - After pulling two men from the Kalamazoo River, a 19-year-old Jackson College student is being called a hero.

June 3 was just like any other sunny day in Homer. Darren Hagerman made his way to the banks of the Kalamazoo River like he had many times before.

“Well when I come here, I typically walk over from my grandma’s house, which is only like a block away,” Hagerman said. “We were thinking about going swimming but decided not to that day.”

It was a seemingly perfect day -- until it wasn’t.

“All of the sudden we just hear a lady screaming, ‘Someone help, call 911,’” Hagerman recalled.

He sprinted over the hill as fast as he could, where he saw a man struggling in the river. Hagerman jumped into action.

“I just remember running over the hill, kicking my flip-flops off, throwing my phone out my pocket and just rushing into the river,” Hagerman said.

Once he reached the man, he saw another man struggling, being held up out of water by a child.

“In that moment, instincts and adrenaline just kind of took over. It was almost like the current wasn’t there at that point,” Hagerman said. “I just knew what I had to do.”

Swimming against the current, he was able to pull the first man to shore. It was just seconds before Hagerman jumped back in to help the other man.

“I was able to throw him on my shoulder and the little kid was holding onto I don’t remember if it was my arm or the other guy,” Hagerman said. “And I was able to get both of those guys in.”

When police arrived, both men were taken to nearby hospitals to be treated. They both survived the incident.

It took a while for Hagerman to realize what had happened.

“It’s something you see on the news but you never think its going to happen to you,” Hagerman said.

He said the events are still a little blurry, but there’s one moment that’s crystal clear.

“The kids was holding onto -- I don’t know if it was my arm or another guy -- and he just kept telling me, ‘You’re a hero,’ and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that,” Hagerman said.

The 19-year-old studies sports administration at Jackson College. He said before this day, he had never rescued anyone.

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