Restaurant diner, employee rescue struggling woman from Chattahoochee

Officer Ryan Smith of the Marietta Police Department was off-duty at Canoe alongside the Chattahoochee when diners spotted a woman floating helplessly down the river. Smith and Canoe employee Tim Eskew jumped into the river to help pull the woman to safety.
Caption
Officer Ryan Smith of the Marietta Police Department was off-duty at Canoe alongside the Chattahoochee when diners spotted a woman floating helplessly down the river. Smith and Canoe employee Tim Eskew jumped into the river to help pull the woman to safety.

Credit: Ryan Smith and Hannah Roberts

An off-duty Marietta police officer and a quick-thinking employee at Canoe, the venerable restaurant on the bank of the Chattahoochee River, bravely jumped into the cold water to help a struggling woman Saturday evening.

Officer Ryan Smith, 25, who is with the Marietta Police Department, and Canoe employee Tim Eskew each risked their lives to help the chilled woman who was being swept along with the current on a slowly deflating raft.

“I just like helping people,” Smith told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution during a phone interview.

The woman floating in the river had become separated from her boyfriend earlier that evening as the two floated together down the Chattahoochee, Smith said. The woman told her rescuers that she had been in the water for nearly two hours. The Chattahoochee is dam-controlled and the water released from the bottom of the Buford Dam is usually about 50 degrees.

Smith said the woman was conscious when he and Eskew were able to pull her to safety, but that she was clearly feeling the effects of the chilly water.

“She was completely purple and blue. So cold,” Smith said.

Smith was with his girlfriend, 23-year-old Hannah Roberts, and Roberts’ mother, who was in town to celebrate Mother’s Day. The three were having drinks at Canoe alongside the river before heading elsewhere for dinner when the woman floated past. Smith said he was having a soft drink because he was working later that night.

Credit: Hannah Roberts

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Officer Ryan Smith and Canoe employee Tim Eskew jumped into the Chattahoochee River to save a woman floating past the restaurant.

Credit: Hannah Roberts

Both Smith and Roberts said that the woman floating alone seemed strange, especially considering the mild temperature Saturday. The woman did not call for help, but Smith said he could tell something was wrong.

“I think she was just in such shock that all she could do is try to swim for herself,” Smith said. “I was a lifeguard for seven years in the past and you can just kind of tell when somebody needs help.”

Roberts took a video of Smith and Eskew as the two jumped into the water and swam out to help the woman. However, the current quickly carried them out of sight. It was not until the woman and her two rescuers had passed under the Paces Ferry Road bridge that they were able to pull her to the riverbank and out of the water.

At the water’s edge, the woman was able to call her boyfriend, who was already searching for her with the help of Cobb County Fire and Rescue. After she had been checked out by emergency services, Smith and Eskew were able to return to the garden at Canoe — to a round of applause.

Roberts, who said she was incredibly proud of her boyfriend, encouraged Smith to jump in the river and assist the woman.

“I said to Ryan, ‘She’s not OK. You need to get in and go after her,’” Roberts said. “And he immediately took off his shirt and jumped in.”

Roberts, a blogger who runs a site called Belle on the Beltline, took video of the incident and broadcast it to her more than 10,000 Instagram followers. She’s proud to share her boyfriend’s bravery.

“He just jumped in, risking his life to save hers, which is obviously very heroic,” she said.

Downriver from Canoe, the Chattahoochee is lined with quiet residential lots for miles. The garden at Canoe was one of the few public areas with many people who could have noticed the woman caught in the current. Luckily, Smith and Eskew were willing and able to brave the water and help the woman to safety.

Once they realized the woman was in danger, Smith said he and Eskew barely hesitated to jump into the river.

“I think it was better safe than sorry,” Smith said.