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Man presumed drowned in Rappahannock River yesterday afternoon

 Mike Mandel (left) of Spotsylvania, Jeff Gandee (center) of Fredericksburg and Chris Ezelle (right) of Locust Grove tried to save a man Gandee pulled from the Rappahannock River yesterday. Mandel and Ezelle performed CPR.
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Date published: 8/9/2010


A man visiting Fredericksburg from Sterling is presumed to have drowned in the Rappahannock River yesterday afternoon near Fall Hill Avenue.

The man, whose age was unknown yesterday but who is estimated to have been 31 or 32, was transported to Mary Washington Hospital at 4:21 p.m. He was declared dead at the hospital, said Fredericksburg Police Department spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe.

It is a presumed drowning because a medical condition could have contributed to the man's death, Bledsoe said.

The Stafford County Sheriff's Office is the lead agency in river rescues, and will be handling the investigation.

The Fredericksburg Police Department received a 911 call at 3:54 p.m. requesting assistance in the area of Fall Hill Avenue and Village Lane, Bledsoe said.

The caller said a man had gone underwater but had been pulled onto some rocks and that bystanders were performing CPR, Bledsoe said.

Jeff Gandee, 39, of Fredericksburg was paddling his canoe downstream, nearing the riverbank at Fall Hill Avenue, when he heard several women making a commotion 50 to 75 yards ahead.

"It sounded like they were playing, then I heard the woman cry and and scream a little bit," Gandee said.

The women were near a grassy island in the middle of the river, standing on rocks in the water, Gandee said. Near them he saw a man's head bob up, then submerge and stay under.

"I started paddling super fast to get down there," Gandee said.

He maneuvered his canoe over to the man. Gandee jumped out of his canoe, pulled the man above the surface and was able to drag him onto the nearby rocks.

Two other men who heard the women's cries from the Fall Hill Avenue riverbank had swum to the middle of the river and reached Gandee as he was pulling the man onto the rocks.

"It was scary as hell because when I pulled him out of the water he looked dead," Gandee said.

Mike Mandel, 42, of Fredericksburg, a Marine trained in lifesaving as part of his military service, started giving the man chest compressions, and Chris Ezelle, 56, of Orange, a former lifeguard, gave the man mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

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