Mary Lynn O’Reilly was running late Monday morning.
“I put my kayak on top of my car,” she said, beginning to laugh. “I had a not-so-bright moment ... I ran into the garage trying to back out and knocked the kayak off my car.”
After that, she was determined to get on the water, knowing her friend and co-worker Nancy Linto was waiting.
While both are registered nurses, they now work as clinical informatics analysts with Northeast Georgia Medical Center. Linto got a kayak as a Mother’s Day present, and the women planned to spend the holiday enjoying some time on the water.
The two had just launched off the dock near Lula Bridge when O’Reilly heard a man’s voice.
“He was yelling for help, and I saw him hanging off the end of the back of the boat, just hanging on to it,” O’Reilly said. From their vantage point, the two women thought he only needed help to get into the boat.
“Then, he said ‘My son is drowning,’” she said. “I just yelled back at Nancy, ‘Somebody has drowned.’ I don’t remember putting my paddle in one time, and we were at his boat.”
When they reached the scene, the man was in the water struggling to keep his son’s head above water. The two women pulled the victim up and immediately began CPR as the father climbed in.
Authorities initially thought the victim, 27-year-old Nicholas Pius Facemire, had a cardiac event, but it was later determined he inhaled water after falling out of the boat.
The incident happened around 11:30 a.m. Memorial Day. Sgt. Mike Burgamy with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said the man was fishing with his father when the rear of their boat got close to the bridge piling near Lula Bridge.
The victim went to push off from the bridge, and fell in.
“What his dad did was the heroic thing,” Linto said. “He dove in after him when he noticed he was struggling, and the two of them started to swim back to the boat. What he told us was that at some point (his son) gave out so he had to continue pulling him to the boat. He was at the boat, holding him up.”
The father’s phone was on him and got wet, so he was unable to make any calls. Linto had her phone in her kayak, though she said she usually doesn’t bring it with her. She went to call 911 while O’Reilly continued CPR.
“It seemed like forever to get back to the boat ramp,” O’Reilly said, as emergency services prepared on shore.
“So we just kept working on him until EMS (was) able to take over,” Linto added.
People on a pontoon boat in the same location attempted to provide assistance; they retrieved O’Reilly’s kayak after it drifted downriver.
O’Reilly and Linto didn’t know those boaters’ names or identifying information, other than they’re from Habersham County.
The pontoon boaters also helped secure the man’s boat onto his truck after he left for the hospital with his son. O’Reilly and Linto then drove the vehicle to the hospital and met the father in the emergency room.
“He was a trooper,” Linto said. “He was really the hero.”
“He held onto his son and he knew he couldn’t get him in the boat but he did not let go,” O’Reilly added.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Facemire was in serious condition and remained in intensive care at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
He is conscious and able to speak. O’Reilly and Linto went by after lunch on Wednesday to meet him.
“He’s talking to us and he’s alert, so that was very exciting,” O’Reilly said.
Talking about the event Wednesday, the two women were giggly and still high on adrenaline. They couldn’t believe the trail of events that led them to be in the right place at the right time.
“We are really humbled by the whole event,” O’Reilly said. “When you put all the things together for that day, you know we were supposed to be there at that very moment. We really can’t take credit for any of this.”
“It was truly a miracle,” Linto added. “(The father) did it all.
“He didn’t let go. Didn’t give up.”